August 31, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:28 PM


Monkeypox, Sexual Health, and the Limits of Medical Technology (JEAN C. LLOYD, 8/31/22, Public Discourse)

 "Even if we found a silver bullet for AIDS tomorrow, something else would come along." I wrote quickly to get distinguished psychiatrist Richard Pillard's exact words down as he spoke at Columbia University's HIV Center in the early 2000s. He ruefully admitted that the human immune system simply wasn't designed to handle the frequent introduction of bodily fluids from multiple sexual partners. Our research, therefore, was the "hope for the future" that would free people to engage in the range of behaviors they desired without the consequences. The body may have limits, but sexual behaviors shouldn't. Enter medical technology.

Fast forward two decades. Monkeypox has now emerged almost exclusively among men who have sex with men (MSM)--according to the largest global data releases to date, 97 percent of cases affect MSM. Wider transmission has occurred in settings where multiple-partner sex takes place, often among strangers, such as sex-themed festivals for gay-identified men. In an effort to avoid stigmatizing the population being affected, early reports on the outbreaks emphasized that monkeypox can be spread by skin-to-skin contact and sought to downplay the sexual-activity aspect of transmission. However, the emerging data are so overwhelmingly consistent that public health advice is now being revised. Less than 1 percent of global cases have occurred through skin-to-skin contact; rather, research indicates that "sex between men is fueling monkeypox."

In addition to containment and treatment, much of the public health discussion has centered around parallels between the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the troubled history of its handling, and its effect on the gay male population. I am reminded both of the AIDS crisis and the prediction that "something else will come along." But today, we've forgotten the harsh lessons about our bodily limits that HIV/AIDS taught us, and instead we embrace a sexual ethic of non-judgmentalism and autonomy. Monkeypox reminds us of our natural limits--and the consequences of ignoring them.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


A Justice Department Show of Force in the Mar-a-Lago Case (Scott R. Anderson, Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes, August 31, 2022, Lawfare)

The next step in the story involves the FBI's discovery, while pursuing the referral from the Archives, of "evidence indicating that even after the Fifteen Boxes were provided to NARA, dozens of additional boxes remained at the Premises that were also likely to contain classified information." In other words, Trump's team didn't hand over everything to the Archives when the agency came looking. Perhaps there's an innocent explanation here--an honest mistake made by Trump and his team about how much material was held at Mar-a-Lago and where it was stored. But it's clear that the department has its doubts.

Indeed, this discovery by the FBI set off a chain of events in which the Mar-a-Lago camp seems to have repeatedly been less than forthcoming in its interactions with the government. The filing describes so many instances of apparent misrepresentations by Trump's team to the federal government that it's difficult to describe them all. 

Following the FBI's discovery of additional classified material possibly held at Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department obtained and delivered a grand jury subpoena for "[a]ny and all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the Office of Donald J. Trump bearing classification markings [list of classification markings]." When the bureau arrived to pick up those documents on June 3, Trump's "custodian of records"--unnamed in the filing, but reported by the New York Times to have been Trump lawyer Christina Bobb--provided a signed letter stating that

a. A diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida; b. This search was conducted after receipt of the subpoena, in order to locate any and all documents that are responsive to the subpoena; c. Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification; and d. No copy, written notation, or reproduction of any kind was retained as to any responsive document.

All of these statements appear to be at least partly false.

Counsel for Trump also informed the bureau that all of the records transported to Mar-a-Lago from the White House had been kept in one particular storage room at the resort and that "there were no other records stored in any private office space or other location at the Premises and that all available boxes were searched."

This also appears to be false. As the filing states, the FBI later "uncovered multiple sources of evidence indicating that the response to the ... grand jury subpoena was incomplete and that classified documents remained at the Premises, notwithstanding the sworn certification made to the government on June 3." 

During the bureau's August search, agents found additional documents with classification markings--meaning that the letter signed by the custodian of records was incorrect in stating that "any and all responsive documents" had been turned over to the FBI. What's more, the FBI found additional documents in an area of Mar-a-Lago called the "45 office," described in the search warrant as "the former President's office space"--that is, outside the storage area where Trump's counsel said all material from the White House had been kept. 

The Justice Department also casts doubt on the signed assertion that "a diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida," stating, 

In the storage room alone, FBI agents found 76 documents bearing classification markings ... That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the "diligent search" that the former President's counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter."

Again, perhaps these were good-faith mistakes by Trump's team rather than intentional efforts to hold on to sensitive documents or obstruct the FBI's investigation. But the Justice Department also includes details that look a great deal less innocent, and could go some way toward proving intent under the relevant statutes. 

When the FBI first arrived to obtain the boxes in the storage room after serving the initial subpoena, for example, "the former President's counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained." (This account differs from the version of events put forward by Trump's legal team, which has portrayed Trump as obliging to investigators and described the FBI as having conducted an exhaustive search of the storage room.) This would be consistent with Trump's team trying to keep the bureau from discovering additional responsive material. What's more, "The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government's investigation."

The Justice Department also notes conduct by Trump's team indicating some level of knowledge that the material in question was classified. The department describes how, when handing over documents in response to the initial subpoena, 

neither counsel nor the custodian asserted that the former President had declassified the documents or asserted any claim of executive privilege. Instead, counsel handled them in a manner that suggested counsel believed that the documents were classified: the production included a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents." 

That's potentially significant, given Trump's later assertions that he had unilaterally declassified the information in the relevant documents during his time in the White House. (That said, it's not clear that it would be necessary for the documents to be classified in order for the department to bring criminal charges.)

What about Trump's own conduct? Reporting has indicated some level of knowledge and involvement by Trump in holding onto the documents in the first place when the National Archives came looking for them. According to the New York Times, "Mr. Trump went through the boxes himself in late 2021"--that is, before the Archives collected some of the material--"according to multiple people briefed on his efforts, before turning them over." The Times also wrote that Trump "resisted" calls to return material to the Archives in 2021, "describing the boxes of documents as 'mine.'" CNN has reported that after the Archives took the first tranche of material--which contained classified information--Trump began "obsessing" over arguments that he should not have turned over the documents and "becoming increasingly convinced that he should have full control over records that remained at Mar-a-Lago."

The Justice Department's filing is strikingly quiet on the question of how much, as the phrase goes, the former president himself knew and when he knew it. Indeed, it seems careful to avoid discussing Trump's conduct at all. 

But there are indications nonetheless that Trump may have had some degree of personal involvement in holding onto the documents. Most obviously, the department states that the FBI seized material in "the former President's office." In a footnote, the department also describes "the contents of a desk drawer that contained classified documents and governmental records commingled with other documents"--including three expired passports belonging to Trump--and notes that, "The location of the passports is relevant evidence in an investigation of unauthorized retention and mishandling of national defense information." One way to read this might be that classified documents weren't just in a desk in Trump's office; they were in a desk in Trump's office along with other personal documents belonging to him. That doesn't prove knowledge or intent on Trump's part, but it's certainly suggestive of his own personal involvement in the mishandling of the material. 

The first conclusion from this extraordinary recitation is that the former president is in serious legal jeopardy. The department could have made all of the legal arguments that follow its factual account with a much more minimal factual presentation. It chose to tell this story. It chose to tell it in an open filing. It chose to make a series of serious imputations about the manner in which the former president and his team had behaved. It chose to include specific facts that suggest that Trump himself had engaged in misconduct. And it chose to lay all this out in a fashion that will make the department look very foolish indeed if the investigation now comes to nothing. The Justice Department does not do bravado, as a general rule. For it to so confidently detail the history of its investigation and the interactions that have driven it suggests a high degree of confidence on where this is heading.

As former Mueller investigation prosecutor Andrew Weissman put it on Twitter: "DOJ BIG PICTURE: you don't make a filing this strong, bold, and factually accusatory if you don't have every intention to indict."

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Why Yesterday's DOJ Filing Suggests a Trump Indictment Is Coming (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, August 31, 2022, National Review)

3. The Government Clearly Has Witnesses

Even before its mid May review of the first 15 boxes Trump gave NARA, the FBI already had one or more witnesses who'd informed the bureau that Trump was still hoarding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

After being delayed by Trump's futile attempts to stall and assert privilege, the FBI's review, which took three days, commenced on May 16. Yet, notice that the grand-jury subpoena demanding all classified documents stored at Mar-a-Lago was issued on May 11 -- five days earlier.

The Justice Department's submission explains that by the time the May 11 subpoena was issued, the FBI had "developed evidence" indicating that "dozens of additional boxes" of records were still being held at the Florida estate. The filing does not say what this evidence was, or how it was developed. The prosecutors omit this information because, they say, they're worried about intimidation of witnesses and other obstructive conduct. They also emphasize that Magistrate Judge Reinhart found probable cause to believe that criminal obstruction had occurred when he approved the search warrant on August 5; and, in thereafter explaining why he would not order disclosure of the unredacted affidavit, Reinhart concluded that revealing this type of information could "impede the ongoing investigation through obstruction of justice and witness intimidation or retaliation."

4. False Statements, Including Under Oath, to the FBI and the Grand Jury

At the June 3 Mar-a-Lago meeting, Trump's representatives provided the sworn statement demanded by the subpoena. It reads:

Based upon the information that has been provided to me, I am authorized to certify, on behalf of the Office of Donald J. Trump, the following: a. A diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida; b. This search was conducted after receipt of the subpoena, in order to locate any and all documents that are responsive to the subpoena; c. Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification; and d. No copy, written notation, or reproduction of any kind was retained as to any responsive document.

I swear or affirm that the above statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge.

The government's court filing does not say who signed the sworn statement. Media reports indicate that the signatory was Trump lawyer Christina Bobb (though she has publicly said that Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran oversaw the supposedly "diligent search"). That the statement itself is patently false does not necessarily mean Bobb was lying when she signed it (if, indeed, she was the one who signed it) -- we don't yet know what information she was given and thus cannot assess whether she was willfully misleading investigators. We can safely assume, however, that (a) the lawyers who conducted the "diligent search" and provided the sworn statement for the grand jury (among other statements the lawyers made that day to the FBI) are subjects of the investigation -- and likely to become central witnesses; and (b) the government would argue that Trump made false statements to the FBI and to the grand jury, reasoning that his agents' statements are attributable to him, and he had to know, when he caused his agents to make these statements, that he was not providing all of the classified documents compelled by the subpoena.

We can also safely say that the government had reason to believe, even as the June 3 meeting was taking place, that the representations made on Trump's behalf by his lawyers were false.

Yeah, but Hunter's laptop shows him smoking crack with hookers! 

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Cases against arrested voters on shaky legal ground. Florida issued them voter IDs (MARY ELLEN KLAS, LAWRENCE MOWER, AND ROMY ELLENBOGEN, 8/31/22,  HERALD/TIMES)

Two weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state's top election officials stood in a Broward County courtroom and announced the arrest of 20 people for voting illegally, the state's case is starting to fall apart. 

The announcement was the first initiative of the governor's Office of Election Crimes and Security, and it targeted people disqualified from voting because they've been convicted of murder or sexual assault. "They're going to pay the price for it,'' the governor promised. 

But in the face of a stream of conflicting messages coming from the governor and state elections officials and the prospect of no immediate fix to the state's confusing system for felons to regain their voting rights, advocates are urging those arrested to fight the charges. The Senate sponsor of the legislation that implemented the felons voting law has concluded "now a million dollar operation" of the Office of Elections Crimes and Security may ultimately produce no convictions.


Report: Drunk Russian soldiers in Kherson fired assault rifles at FSB officers in deadly incident (Michael Weiss and James Rushton, August 30, 2022, Yahoo! News)

The documents include an incident and homicide report by the Russian Investigative Committee's Military Investigations Department for the Black Sea Fleet regarding a June 19 incident in which three Russian soldiers were shot and killed and two others wounded in a gun battle with officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor agency to the KGB, at a bar in Kherson City, on the banks of the Dnieper River.

The city lies at the epicenter of an oblast that has been occupied by Russian forces since late February and which Ukraine yesterday appeared to launch operations to recapture. Details of that operation are hard to obtain, as Kyiv has announced a media blackout of ongoing military activities. But videos posted to social media show a series of Ukrainian artillery strikes on military installations, weapons and ammunition depots and key bridges have continued throughout the last 24 hours. In response, Russian air defenses have been activated throughout the oblast.

Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-appointed governor of Kherson, has fled the region and even recorded a video Tuesday from a hotel in Voronezh, Russia. Meanwhile, there have even been unconfirmed reports of gunfire in the Pivnichny and Tavriiske neighborhoods of Kherson.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Mikhail Gorbachev's Failures Did Not Go Deep Enough (Leonid Bershidsky, August 31, 2022, Bloomberg)

Gorbachev launched an economic "acceleration" drive that sank like a lead balloon because it stopped well short of embracing capitalism. He thought he was bringing Communism closer to the people rather than dismantling it. In a memoir, Gorbachev quoted his own notes from 1985: "The current propaganda of Marxism is boring, young people are losing interest... If we want new policies to gain support, we need to restore faith in Socialist ideals."

Shortages were atrocious. I remember a year without toilet paper in Moscow, the capital. While growing up in Siberia, my wife doesn't recall using anything but smeary newsprint for hygiene. Store shelves emptied of everything but three-liter jars of sweetened birch sap.

Nothing worked. Amid the economic mismanagement, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up in 1986; and Gorbachev, the originator of glasnost -- that is, his policy of "openness" --  waited 18 days to address the nation about it, allowing hundreds of thousands of people to be exposed to the fallout.

Gorbachev permitted more media freedom. As a result, the whole country was soon reading and hearing on TV about previous crimes of a regime that refused to prosecute the perpetrators, many of whom were still alive as honored retirees.

When people in the former Soviet republics began rebelling and demanding independence, he -- to put it generously -- did little to prevent bloody crackdowns, even if there's no clear evidence that he ordered them himself. As early as 1986, nationalist protests in Almaty, Kazakhstan, were put down with a massive show of force. Two of the protesters received death sentences.

In April, 1991, the Soviet military killed 21 protesters and wounded hundreds more in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Jumber Patiashvili, who headed the Communist Party in Georgia at the time, would later accuse Gorbachev of sending in the troops.

People were killed as they protested in Dushanbe, Baku and Riga. In January 2022, relatives of four of the 14 people killed by Soviet paratroopers during the January 1991 storming of the TV tower in Vilnius sued Gorbachev for damages in a Lithuania court. Again, there's no direct evidence that he personally ordered the military intervention, and he denied it. But he is on record demanding that the Soviet-occupied Baltic nation give up its independence drive; and he had ordered an economic blockade of Lithuania that preceded the military action.

In 1990, Gorbachev, apparently alarmed by what he had unleashed, began rolling back the media liberalization. He appointed hardliners to key positions, from TV chief to interior minister. Many of these would depose him in the failed August 1991 coup. Still upon being reinstated by his arch-enemy, Boris Yeltsin, Gorbachev would fail to hold on to power. He finally witnessed the Soviet Union's demise.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Don't fall for rose-tinted revisionism about Mikhail Gorbachev (Robert Tyler, 8/31/22, CapX)

Indeed, throughout Gorbachev's time at the helm, the USSR continued to use brute force to put down any hint of insurrection. 

In 1986, 200 Kazakhs were killed in protests against the appointment of a Russian Party boss in the region that was perceived as a further attempt at Russification.  In 1988, Soviet troops opened fire against Armenian protestors, the ensuing clashes sparked racial tensions in the region and ultimately lead to the Nagorno-Karabakh wars. In April 1989, peaceful Georgian protestors were killed by members of the Soviet Army wielding batons and spades. When fresh protestors gathered against the deaths of the previous ones, the Soviet Army deployed nerve agents against the crowds.

In 1990, Gorbachev turned a blind eye to ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek peoples - only sending in peacekeepers after the situation became too much to ignore. Even then they were told to stay in cities, allowing the situation in the countryside to collapse. Estimates vary as to the death toll, but some place it as high as 1,000 people.

Nor should we forget the intense struggle faced by the Baltic state for their independence. Dozens were killed during the Vilnius Massacre in Lithuania and the 'Barricades' in Latvia, with hundreds more injured.

Most toxic of all is, arguably, Chernobyl - the cover-up of which caused untold damage to the surrounding area and put the entire world at enormous risk. As Ukrainian politician Alla Yaroshinskaia has written, the reaction to the accident was a 'classic Soviet cover-up', in which 'the number of people radically affected by the explosion was kept secret and the result was far greater mortality and suffering'. [...]

Perhaps most telling is how unapologetic Gorbachev remained in his later life. In numerous interviews he stated his regret that the Soviet Union had collapsed at all, and even suggested that it should have been held together. In 2014, he even applauded the annexation of Crimea by Russia - a move that saw him banned from Ukraine. 

It's like giving Alfred Jodl credit for Nazi Germany ending WWII without further bloodshed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Biden DoctrineThe longtime senator's approach to foreign policy looks a lot like cloakroom coalition-building. (SHAY KHATIRI,  AUGUST 31, 2022, The Bulwark)

Twenty months into Joe Biden's presidency, there is an emerging trend in the administration's foreign policy. The Biden team has been cobbling together groups of U.S. allies and partners, each comprising countries with shared interests within a geographic region. At the center of each group, setting the agenda, is the United States. This senatorial approach to foreign policy may be the Biden Doctrine: Form "gangs" of partners on issues of importance, and work to reach a desired outcome by exerting as much influence in as many groups as possible--especially when it's impractical to go through the formal "committee" of a multilateral organization.

Nice to be able to organize them against Vlad and Xi, now permanentize them in favor of free trade/immigration.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How American Conservatives Embraced Intellectual Justifications of RacismNicole Hemmer on the Rise of the Racialist Right in America (Nicole Hemmer, August 31, 2022, LitHub)

If hard-line, race-based immigration restrictions were a deviation from the Reagan era, an opposition to Great Society civil rights and poverty programs, particularly those aimed at helping Black Americans, seemed very much like a continuation of it. But the new writing on Black Americans, inequality, and government intervention deviated sharply from Reagan's libertarian-minded approach. Reagan asserted these programs failed because they were a matter of government overreach, interrupting the natural state of the market and social relations. He offered an optimistic (even Pollyannaish) view of what would exist without government interference: a colorblind, meritocratic, and equality-based society.

Writers like Charles Murray, Richard Herrnstein, and Dinesh D'Souza painted a much bleaker picture. When they looked at Black inequality--in wealth, in educational attainment, in life expectancy, in political power--they saw the root cause not as racism or ineffective government intervention but as problems that existed within the Black community--in Murray and Herrnstein's case, an intelligence deficit; in D'Souza's, a cultural one.

Those arguments would not only lay the groundwork for a more pessimistic, color-conscious racism on the right but also provide a more respectable version of anti-Black politics than that of someone like David Duke (who, for all his efforts to appear respectable, could never truly disassociate himself from the Klan).

Murray and Herrnstein's The Bell Curve became an instant sensation when it hit shelves in 1994. In it, they offered a number of arguments about IQ, societal problems, and race. The core contentions were that IQ was, to a significant degree, heritable and unchangeable; that low IQ correlated to both race and negative social behaviors, leading to poverty, crime, and out-of-wedlock children; and that policy should take those correlations into account.

Though crammed full of charts and equations, The Bell Curve was not a scientific tract--the authors were a political scientist (Murray) and a psychologist (Herrnstein), not scientists or geneticists. It was instead a policy book that used poorly interpreted and dubiously sourced pseudoscientific data to build its arguments.

The new writing on Black Americans, inequality, and government intervention deviated sharply from Reagan's libertarian-minded approach.
The Bell Curve was a broadside against the Great Society and a call for new policies that, while not explicitly race based, would have profound consequences for Black people and nonwhite immigrants. The authors called for, among other things, elimination of aid to poor mothers so they would stop having children; an end to the use of affirmative action in college admissions, which they argued raised low-IQ people of color above their ability levels; and a shift in immigration law from family-based immigration to merit-based immigration in order to favor higher-IQ immigrants.

These were not new ideas, of course. Scientific racism had been around for centuries, confidently asserting schema for racial classifications and racial superiority. Herrnstein himself had been on the race-IQ beat for almost a quarter century, part of a renaissance of scientific racism repackaged around contemporary intelligence research. In a 1971 piece for The Atlantic, he argued government spending on education and antipoverty programs could not promote equality, because they did not address racial groups' inherited differences in IQ.

The article proved as influential as it was controversial. In the White House, Pat Buchanan, then an aide to President Richard Nixon, drafted a memo arguing against federal programs focused on integration and poverty. "The importance of this article is difficult to understate," he wrote to the president, confusing "understate" with "overstate." "If correct, then all our efforts and expenditures not only for 'compensatory education' but to provide an 'equal chance at the starting line' are guaranteeing that we wind up with the intelligent ones coming in first. And every study we have shows blacks 15 IQ points below whites on the average."

Nixon sent the article to presidential counselor Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who a few years earlier had authored the Moynihan Report, which argued Black poverty was a function of failings in Black culture. Moynihan told the president that Herrnstein's arguments rang true. Yet, while both men agreed with Herrnstein, in a private Oval Office conversation about the article, the sense of taboo hovered: "Nobody must think we're thinking about it," Nixon told Moynihan, "and...if we do find out it's correct, we must never tell anybody."

Nixon, whose racism is well documented, stressed that he hadn't wanted to agree with Herrnstein and other race-IQ researchers like Arthur Jensen, but he ultimately did. "I've reluctantly concluded, based at least on the evidence presently before me, and I don't base it on any scientific evidence, that what Herrnstein says, and what was said earlier by Jensen, and so forth, is probably very close to the truth."

It mattered that Moynihan and Nixon did not declare their agreement with Herrnstein publicly. They may have agreed, but their agreement did not shape the public debate about social and economic programs. The trajectory for The Bell Curve was markedly different: controversial as it was, it entered mainstream political discourse and became part of the right's conception of race, IQ, and policy.

It's the ideological foundation that the Identitarians hoped for to validate their feelings.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sweet lands of libertyNumbers don't lie: Freer countries are better countries. (Jeff Jacoby  August 31, 2022, Boston Globe)

Now in its 25th edition, "Economic Freedom of the World" is jointly published by two North American think tanks, the Washington-based Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute in Vancouver. The yearly publication measures the extent to which each country's policies and legal system support the basic pillars of economic freedom. Using dozens of data points to score each country, the authors compile an index that quantifies economic liberty in five broad areas: size of government, the rule of law and property rights, sound money, freedom to trade across borders, and the fairness of regulation. They also measure the extent to which women in each society have the same economic rights as men.

When all the numbers are crunched and all the data distilled, the authors sort the nations of the world from freest to least free. According to the most recent report, the greatest economic freedom was found in Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Georgia, the United States, Ireland, Lithuania, Australia, and Denmark. At the bottom of the list were Congo, Iran, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, and Venezuela. (The report was based on data from 2019 and thus did not reflect the sweeping Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong.)

You don't have to be a social scientist to notice the rough correlation: By and large, societies where economic freedom is strong are nicer places to live. Those with little or no economic freedom tend to lack civil liberties as well. When citizens' economic rights aren't protected, neither, as a rule, are their rights to freedom of speech, conscience, and democracy. More often than not, the poorest, saddest, dirtiest, and most dangerous places on the planet are also places with little or no economic freedom.

Post-liberalism is whack. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


THE FBI'S MAR-A-LAGO SEARCH WAS 1,500 YEARS IN THE MAKING (Asha Rangappa and Jennifer Mercieca, AUGUST 31, 2022, Zocalo Public Square)

"All Americans are entitled to the evenhanded application of the law," Attorney General Merrick Garland assured Americans on August 11, 2022, following the FBI's execution of a search warrant at the home of former president Donald Trump. But partisan commentary surrounding the Justice Department's unprecedented step has twisted that very same principle. The refrain of Trump's supporters--"If they can do this to Trump, they will do it to you!"--sounds a lot like a threat. But it isn't a threat. In fact, it's a 1,500-year-old democratic promise.

What does "equality before the law" mean, where does it come from, and why does it matter? The ancient Greek term for Garland's sentiment is isonomia, a concept which was rooted in democracy itself. Is a former president subject to isonomia? If the rule of law means anything, the answer must be yes. The law must be applied without fear or favor--equally to all--and that includes the former president.

Historians trace the idea of "equality before the law" to the magistrate Cleisthenes, whose democratic reforms to the Athenian constitution in 509 BCE ended tyrannical and aristocratic rule. According to Aristotle, Cleisthenes ushered in what we think of now as the golden age of democracy, which flourished at Athens--despite a few oligarchic interruptions--for nearly 200 years.

While historians associate Cleisthenes with "democracy" (dêmos  = people + kratos = power), he called the government he created isonomia (isos = equal + nomos = law, custom). Isonomia for Cleisthenes seems to mean both the equal right to participate in making the laws and the equal application of the law to every Athenian citizen.

In fact, isonomia occurs in Greek political thought before democracy does--equality before the law is such an essential element of democracy that the political system could not exist without it. Herodotus, in the earliest known use of the word demokratia, invoked isonomia in an imagined debate defending democracy: Equality meant every citizen was eligible for office, all officers were accountable to the people, and all citizens had an equal right of free speech (isēgoría) in the Assembly. These were also the features of Greek democracy, essentially equating the two.

Trump has what we might think of as a "Pigpen" theory of the presidency. If we imagine him as the Peanuts character, Trump believes that a cloud of executive power continues to surround him, even though he left office over 18 months ago.
Political theorists and governments over the past 1,500 years have generally agreed. Cicero, then Livy, then British Whigs like James Harrington and Edward Coke and liberal political theorists like John Locke and David Hume, all invoked isonomia as fundamental to good order, political stability, and liberty. In 1960, the legal theorist and free-market economist Friedrich von Hayek explained how the concept moved from ancient Greece into the English common law tradition as the essential element of libertarianism--and the fundamental grounding of both British and American legal and political theory. In 16th-century England, Justicia--a.k.a. Lady Justice--began appearing with a blindfold, initially as a symbol of the judicial system's turning a blind eye to those who abused the law, but eventually evolving to symbolize impartiality before the law. And while the United States struggled to perfect racial equality in practice, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified after the Civil War, enshrined it as a democratic aspiration by guaranteeing, "No State shall...deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

It is that universality that the Left/Right particularly hates about America.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rising GOP anger at Trump shows a deeper problem for the party (Greg Sargent, August 30, 2022, Washington Post)

Some Republicans are blaming the media for hyping the revelations, per Politico. Others insist there's something vaguely amiss about the timing of the search. Still others say the documents aren't harboring serious secrets, which is contradicted by already-known facts.

But the responses mostly have a halfhearted quality. Among those Republicans, at least, gone is the full-throated rage that initially treated Trump as uniformly a victim and the search as wholly illegitimate.

Why? Well, as the Times piece documents, Trump is again a big story on terms unfavorable to Republicans. The political dynamic has shifted amid numerous factors: Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices overturning Roe v. Wade, revelations about Trump's effort to destroy our democracy and, now, the drumbeat of devastating facts about his harboring of state secrets.

While holding the House will still be tough for Democrats, it's now in play, and keeping the Senate is very plausible. As Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg tells the Times, the combination of Republicans initially running "toward MAGA" and Trump's reemergence with a vengeance have given Democrats "more ammunition to label their candidates as extreme."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Solar squeezes out coal to set new record low for demand on national grid (Sophie Vorrath, 31 August 2022, Renew Economy)

Australia's world-leading rooftop solar uptake has delivered some more records for the National Electricity Market, including a new winter minimum operational demand low of 14,159 megawatts, recorded last week. [...]

At the same time as the new NEM record was set on the weekend, AEMO says grid-scale and rooftop solar were providing around 50% of generation, wind was at 8% of the mix and coal at 42%. [...]

The significance of this, of course, is that the more rooftop solar production, the less demand for fossil fuels, and it is the coal fleet in particular that gets crunched.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Dems Double Down on Backing for Burns in NH-02 GOP Primary (Michael Graham, 8/30/22, NH Journal)

Democrats continue to pour mail into the Second Congressional District GOP primary on behalf of pro-Trump candidate Bob Burns, and now they have added a nearly $100,000 TV ad buy to the mix. It is a tactic Democrats have used across the county to promote Republicans they believe will be easier to defeat in November.

As NHJournal first reported, GOP primary voters have received a series of direct mail pieces, with no identification or disclaimers, from Reynolds DeWalt, a Democratic mail shop in New Bedford, Mass. The mailers tout Burns' pro-Trump stance and contrast him with GOP competitor, Keene Mayor George Hansel.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Homophobic Creep Threatens to Kill Eric Swalwell at His Office (Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling,  Aug. 30, 2022, Daily Beast)

A staffer for California Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) fielded a threatening call Tuesday when a man claimed he was en route to the lawmaker's office with an assault rifle to kill him. The intern who fielded the call said the unidentified man went on a "rant regarding gay issues," using homophobic slurs a number of times and asked for Swalwell's current location, according to a statement. The intern, who Swalwell noted is just one month into her job, reported that the man then threatened to kill the former Trump impeachment manager.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why even environmentalists are supporting nuclear power today (Uri Berliner, 8/30/22, NPR)

Resistance to nuclear power is starting to ebb around the world with support from a surprising group: environmentalists.

This change of heart spans the globe, and is being prompted by climate change, unreliable electrical grids and fears about national security in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In California, the state's last remaining power plant -- Diablo Canyon, situated on the Pacific Coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles -- long scheduled to be scrapped, may now remain open. Governor Gavin Newsom, a longtime opponent of the plant, is seeking to extend its lifespan through at least 2029.

It's a remarkable turnaround in a state where anti-nuclear activists and progressive Democratic lawmakers have fought with great success to rid the state of nuclear power.

Last week, Japan's prime minister said the country is restarting idled nuclear plants and considering building new ones. This is a sharp reversal for the country that largely abandoned nuclear after the tsunami-led disaster at the Fukushima plant in 2011.

Germany pulled the plug on nuclear after Fukushima, too. But this summer there's been an intense debate in Germany over whether to restart three plants in response to the country's severe energy crisis prompted by the Russia-Ukraine war.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jan. 6 Proud Boy rioter who approached Chuck Schumer and who made antisemitic jokes in chat sentenced to 4.5 years (RON KAMPEAS, AUGUST 30, 2022, JTA) 

A federal judge handed down a 55-month prison sentence to a 40-year-old Proud Boy initiate who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 and rushed toward Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The prosecution's sentencing recommendation noted that Joshua Pruitt, in his efforts to impress other Proud Boys, a far-right group, made antisemitic comments in encrypted chats.

Which is certainly how you impress Trumpists.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Lebanon looks to expand solar arrays, possibly selling power to city buyers (FRANCES MIZE, 8/31/22, Valley News)

The city can continue expanding its collection of municipal solar arrays with help from legislation passed in the state Senate this summer.

This July, Lebanon City Management approved the next phase of City Solar, which launched in 2019 with the installation of solar arrays at seven city-owned sites, including the wastewater plant and water plant. Solar is measured by how much it produces at its peak output, known as the "DC rating," and the panels installed in the initial rollout account for 770 kilowatts of power. This meets about 16% of the city's total annual electric load.

SB 321, passed in the Statehouse in June, keeps the ball rolling. The bill permits cities to generate up to 2 megawatts of power and sell it to buyers within the boundaries of the municipality without incurring transmission and distribution costs. One of these pilot programs is allowed for each of the four electric utilities in the state.

August 30, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


The man who lost an empire (Strobe Talbott, December 7, 2017, The New York Review of Books)

Gorbachev, too, had crucial connections with the KGB at the highest level. He probably would never have ascended to power without the patronage of Yuri Andropov, the head of Soviet intelligence for fifteen years before he became party leader in 1982. Taubman tells us that Andropov met Gorbachev in 1968, soon after he took over the KGB. One of the youngest provincial party chiefs in the USSR, Gorbachev combined a reputation for loyalty with a fertile mind, pragmatism, and a talent for innovation--qualities that Andropov felt the country sorely needed.

Andropov's position gave him access to data on the deterioration of Soviet society. The economy was anemic, the governing structures were rigid and inefficient, and laws were ignored or unjust. Factory towns polluted the air and water as they churned out armaments while ordinary citizens had to stand in long lines for paltry supplies of food and shoddy goods. Collectivized agriculture made the lives of farmers and their customers miserable. Public health services were abysmal, and the population, especially the Slavic majority, suffered from pervasive alcoholism, low birthrates, and decreasing life expectancy. Andropov faulted the complacent and stultifying policies of Leonid Brezhnev, the ponderous, beetle-browed apparatchik who replaced Khrushchev in 1964.

Andropov succeeded Brezhnev in 1982. His kidneys were failing and within a few months he was working mostly from his dacha, tethered to a dialysis machine. From a hospital bed in 1983 he urged his underlings to choose Gorbachev as his successor. But when Andropov died the following February, they had already decided that Konstantin Chernenko, a seventy-two-year-old party hack, would be a safer pick, although he was afflicted with emphysema, pleurisy, pneumonia, and heart disease. They were organizing Chernenko's funeral just thirteen months later.

Can't really fault Gorby for not understandin g the situation as well as the head of the KGB did, but the fact he still thought that by opening up public discussion you could save the Revolution at the cost of some criticism of Stalin was pretty hilarious.  The dissidents went straight for Lenin and demonstrated that the regime was evil from the beginning and he was never going to get that toothpaste back in the tube.  Events rode him the rest of the way.
Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Why Christian nationalism is un-Christian (Thomas Reese, 8/29/22, RNS)

In the Hebrew Scriptures we find that the people of Israel also saw the world as divided into good guys and bad guys. The people of Israel were the good guys because they had a special covenant with God, and they often felt that this excluded everyone else from contact with God.

Some books of the Old Testament, like Ruth and Jonah, challenged that view. One of the authors of Isaiah, known by Scripture scholars as Trito-Isaiah, reminds the people of Israel that God calls all people. Trito-Isaiah has the Lord say, "I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory."

This same theme is picked up in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus tells us that "people will come from the east and the west, the north and the south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of heaven."

God's salvific will is universal; it extends to all people. Every person on earth is offered God's love and grace. To the extent that they respond, they will be enveloped in God's love. To the extent they say yes to God, they will be united with God. This can happen without baptism. It can even happen when a person leads a loving life without recognizing God's love in their life.

This is what the Catholic Church affirmed at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Ecumenism is all about recognizing that God can speak to all people, even those outside the Catholic Church and even those outside of Christianity.

The Gospels ask us to look beyond the borders of our community, beyond the borders of our neighborhoods and beyond the borders of our nation. A Christian must see all people as brothers and sisters capable of hearing God's Spirit. We can learn to hear the Lord better by listening to and respecting one another. This is what ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is all about.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nontoxic material found to be ultra-strong solar energy harvester (Aug 29, 2022, Solar Daily)

Solar cells are vital for the green energy transition. They can be used not only on rooftops and solar farms but also for powering autonomous vehicles, such as planes and satellites. However, photovoltaic solar cells are currently heavy and bulky, making them difficult to transport to remote locations off-grid, where they are much needed.

In a collaboration led by Imperial College London, alongside researchers from Cambridge, UCL, Oxford, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin in Germany, and others, researchers have produced materials that can absorb comparable levels of sunlight as conventional silicon solar cells, but with 10,000 times lower thickness.

The material is sodium bismuth sulfide (NaBiS2), which is grown as nanocrystals and deposited from solution to make films 30 nanometers in thickness. NaBiS2 is comprised of nontoxic elements that are sufficiently abundant in the earth's crust for use commercially. For example, bismuth-based compounds are used as a nontoxic lead replacement in solder, or in over-the-counter stomach medicine.

Yi-Teng Huang, PhD student at the University of Cambridge and co-first author, commented: "We have found a material that absorbs light more strongly than conventional solar cell technologies and can be printed from an ink. This technology has potential for making lightweight solar cells which can be easily transported or used in aerospace applications."

"Smart glass" is coming to a building near you (Alex Fitzpatrick, 8/30/22, Axios)

Among the Inflation Reduction Act's little-noticed yet potentially game-changing provisions: a big incentive for "smart glass," which can make buildings significantly more energy efficient. [...]

Smart glass, also called "dynamic glass" or "electrochromic glass," differs from regular glass in that its tint level can be adjusted on demand -- think Transitions glasses, but for buildings.

Smart glass contains thin layers of metal oxide. When small amounts of electricity are applied to those layers, ions move between them, changing the glass' tint level.

When the summer sun is hitting the side of a building, the tint level can be increased, allowing visible light to pass but blocking some solar radiation -- thereby reducing incoming heat.

Conversely, the tint can be decreased in colder seasons, allowing more natural heat to pass through.

Smart glass can help reduce a building's heating or cooling energy needs by about 20%, per a U.S. Department of Energy estimate.

Plus, if lots of buildings in a single city adopt smart glass, it can reduce the peak load on the local electric grid during times of heavy use.

What they're saying: "The demand here is just going to explode as a result of this," says Rao Mulpuri, CEO of smart glass maker View, of the IRA tax credit.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How it started vs. how it's going: What we've learned about COVID-19 (Camille Caldera, August 29, 2022, Boston Globe)

For Osterholm, the emergence of these variants -- which came to be known as Alpha and Beta, respectively -- caused a "sea change."

"That's where, for me, I had to make a major adjustment in how I was looking at the pandemic," he said. "There were major changes occurring in transmissibility and in potential to cause serious illness."

Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor of virology at the Baylor College of Medicine, said mutations have been among "the most frustrating parts" of COVID-19.

At first, the mutations were predictable, with "similar types of amino acid substitutions," he said. But Omicron was a "game changer."

The new variant, which emerged around Thanksgiving 2021, had "significantly more mutations" than previous versions, particularly in the gene that encodes the spike protein that the virus uses to attach to cells, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. As a result, Omicron and its subvariants are adept at avoiding the antibodies people produce after vaccination or infection.

Osterholm said scientists are "still trying to understand" why these mutations occurred as the virus replicated inside humans.

"We're part of a natural experiment where that virus is going through all these genetic changes in us," he said.

It's impossible to anticipate how much more the virus might mutate in the future, and that might prolong the pandemic.

"Today, we still have a challenge of understanding what is going to happen in the future," said Osterholm. "Is there going to be a BA.8? Is there going to be a BA.9? Is there going to be Pi or Sigma?"

For much of the pandemic, experts claimed COVID-19 would stop spreading once we reached the tantalizing threshold of "herd immunity."

The concept is simple: once the majority of a population is immune to a virus -- by infection or vaccination -- there are too few hosts for the virus to continue to spread in the population.

In March 2020, Osterholm declared in the Washington Post that COVID-19 was bound to disappear "eventually" -- either through vaccination or through an accumulation of immunity against the virus.

"The virus will burn itself out as the spread of infection comes to confer a form of herd immunity on the population," he wrote.

Today, Osterholm believes the opposite.

He first felt "skeptical" of herd immunity in August 2020 after a report of reinfection indicated that immunity could wane. Once the variants took over, he said, "all bets were off."

"All the nails have been appropriately placed in the coffin of herd immunity," he said.

The concept of herd immunity only works for diseases like polio and measles because those viruses are "not evolving fast," said Hotez. For COVID-19, "with all the escape mutants, herd immunity proved a totally worthless concept."

Others argue that we have, in fact, achieved a kind of herd immunity.

"We can see that there is some immunity out there, and it is interfering with the transmission of the virus," said Dr. William Hanage, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "It's just not interfering with the transmission of the virus to make it go away."

Above all, individuals who have charted the course of COVID-19 have come to understand uncertainty.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Immigrants are key to addressing America's labor shortage, lowering inflation, and growing our economy (REBECCA SHI, 08/29/22, The Hill)

Across every sector, businesses can't find workers to fill open positions, even when they increase pay and benefits or go so far as to pay candidates to attend job interviews. There are 10.7 million job openings in the U.S., but only 5.7 million unemployed workers. Even if every unemployed American found a job, we would still have five million jobs unfilled. But for America's broken immigration system, immigrant workers could fill many of these jobs -- and it is U.S.-born citizens who would benefit the most from their contributions.

For consumers, the labor shortage means empty shelves, higher prices, and long waiting times, whether for a restaurant table or in the emergency room. The labor shortage is especially acute in services we need the most. As students return to school, the National Education Association estimates a shortage of 300,000 teachers and support staff across the nation. In a recent survey, 90 percent of nurses were considering leaving the profession in the next year. Nearly 1 million new STEM jobs will come open over the next decade, but it's not clear that the U.S. educational system is preparing students to fill those jobs. 

In the agricultural sector, the labor shortage is causing sticker shock at the grocery store, with some families skipping meals due to inflation. Food prices are 10 percent higher than last year -- the biggest increase in 40 years. At this year's Labor Day barbecue, hamburgers will cost 36 percent more than last year, pork and beans will cost 33 percent more, and homemade potato salad 19 percent more, according to data from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Common sense immigration reforms would bring food prices down and address supply chain bottlenecks.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Top Pro-Russian Official Shot Dead in Ukraine's Kherson (AFP, Aug. 30th, 2022)

A former deputy who switched allegiance from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the occupying Russian forces in the southern region of Kherson has been shot dead, Russian investigators said Monday.

Alexei Kovalev, "the deputy head of the military and civil administration in the Kherson region was killed by bullets," the investigators said on Telegram.

U.S. Defense Official: Russia Struggling To Recruit New Soldiers, Turning To Prisons, Elderly (Radio Free Europe, 8/30/22)

A senior U.S. defense official told reporters that Russia is struggling to find more soldiers to fight in Ukraine and said many recruits are older, in bad shape, and are receiving little training.

How well do you need to train cannon fodder?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

100% IS EASY:

Coca-Cola steps closer to 100 pct renewables in deal with state's biggest wind farm (Sophie Vorrath 30 August 2022, Renew Economy)

The Australian operations of global beverage giant Coca-Cola have moved another step closer to being powered by 100 per cent renewables, after signing an energy offtake deal with Western Australia's biggest and and of its best performing wind farms.

Don't stop there.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fewer Americans say they are living paycheck to paycheck as inflation begins to ease (Jessica Dickler, 8/29/22, CNBC)

July's consumer price index report finally showed that the prices consumers pay for a variety of goods and services started to ease after average gas prices fell below $4 for the first time since March and are now down to $3.85.

As a result, real inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings for the month rose 0.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ron DeSantis' First Voter Fraud Bust Is Quickly Imploding (MARK JOSEPH STERN, AUG 29, 2022, Slate)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a spectacle out of the round of arrests made by his election police force earlier this month, jailing 20 people on charges of voter fraud and promising more prosecutions to come. At least one target was dragged to jail in his underwear by a SWAT team at 6 a.m. But it turns out that the individuals ensnared in DeSantis' dragnet had no idea that they could not lawfully vote. The governor's own appointees flubbed their legal duty to stop them from registering. And because of their sloppy errors, all 20 defendants may well be acquitted of crimes they did not intend to commit.

August 29, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Is particle physics at a dead end? (Philip Ball, August 29, 2022, Prospect)

The 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson secured the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for Peter Higgs and Belgian physicist François Englert, one of the others to have had much the same idea at the same time. But it was not the start of a new field of research so much as the end point of an existing one. The Higgs particle was the last remaining piece of a puzzle called the Standard Model, which brings together all the known fundamental particles and forces that make up the physical world (with the exception of gravity, a notoriously difficult phenomenon to fit into the microscopic picture of physics). With the discovery of the Higgs, that framework was finished and consistent--there is no place in it for anything else.

Yet the Standard Model doesn't explain everything we know about the world of particles and forces. One major remaining puzzle is dark matter: a hypothetical substance that seems to interact with known particles and light only via its gravitational effect. Because dark matter is seemingly immune to all other forces, it can pass ghost-like through ordinary matter. We can only infer its existence at all from its effects at astronomical scales: it is needed to explain why galaxies don't simply spin apart, and why light seems to get bent by otherwise empty space. But we have no idea what dark matter is. There are no particles in the Standard Model to account for it, and despite decades of searching, no other candidate particles have ever been detected. Some physicists suspect "dark matter" might not be some undiscovered particle at all, but rather that some other law (such as a modification to the theory of gravity) is needed to explain its apparent effects.

The Standard Model does not, meanwhile, explain why the amount of ordinary matter in our universe seems greatly to exceed that of its opposite, antimatter. Every known particle has an antimatter sibling: they are mirror images, rather like left and right. The negatively charged electrons that are constituents of all atoms, for example, have an antimatter partner with a positive charge, called the positron. When matter and antimatter meet, they annihilate one another in an outburst of energy. Our physical theories suggest they should have been formed in equal amounts in the Big Bang--so why were they apparently not?

The Standard Model also fails to explain how three of the fundamental forces at work in the universe--electromagnetism and the strong and weak forces that operate inside the atomic nucleus--might have once been one single force very early in the universe, just instants after the Big Bang. It is widely believed that this unity of forces existed: it has already been shown to be the case for the electromagnetic and weak forces, which were once a single "electroweak" force. The leading theories that describe this unification of forces imply the existence of a property called supersymmetry, which is not included in the Standard Model. Supersymmetry predicts that every particle has a "supersymmetric" partner. The existence of such supersymmetric particles could explain why the Higgs boson is not even heavier than it is, as the Standard Model seems to imply it should be.

Supersymmmetry looks to many physicists like a very enticing idea. Yet no evidence for it has ever been found. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Israeli Jewish voters have moved significantly rightward in recent years, data shows (CARRIE KELLER-LYNN, 8/29/22, Times of Israel)

Israel's right-wing Jewish voter base has grown from 46 percent before the April 2019 election to 62% now, ahead of November's vote, according to an analysis of self-reported political affiliation by the Israel Democracy Institute.

The growth has been mostly at the expense of the political center, although the left has also taken a dip.

From 2019 to 2022, with four elections having taken place and a fifth scheduled, the size of the political center dropped by nine percentage points and the number of left-identifying citizens by six points, to 24% and 11%, respectively.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Tesla quietly built a virtual power plant in Japan (Nicole Wetsman  Aug 29, 2022, The Verge)

Tesla's latest virtual power plant is in Japan. The company announced Friday that it has been quietly installing its Powerwall batteries at homes on the island Miyako-jima since 2021 and now has over 300 installed. It's the largest commercial virtual power plant in Japan, according to the statement.

Virtual power plants take advantage of solar panels and batteries in private homes. People with those setups can sign up to send extra power back to the electrical grid in their area, giving it an extra boost during situations when it's at risk of a blackout. The grid can use that power instead of pulling from the gas-fired power plants typically used when the power supply is strained.

The virtual power plant is based on a program at local energy utility in Miyako-jima, Miyakojima Mirai Energy Co, that installs solar panels and storage batteries at no cost.

Tesla already has virtual power plants operating in California and Australia and is working on getting one off the ground in Texas -- where it sees an opportunity to add a new source of power to a perennially unreliable grid.

Cheap reliable independence, what a world.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


How Dick Cheney created Anthony Fauci (Ashley Rindsberg, August 29, 2022, UnHerd)

Bush has been rightly credited with identifying the threat of a global pandemic, as well as providing a serious policy for dealing with the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. But it was Cheney who served as the political engine behind a paradigm shift that would soon take place in America's biodefence strategy. Six days before the 9/11 attacks, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened a hearing on "The Threat of Bioterrorism and the Spread of Infectious Diseases". The hearing was led by Joe Biden, then chair of the committee, and included testimony by experts in strategic defence. In a prepared statement, Bill Frist, a physician who served as a Republican senator until 2007, noted that: "Any threat to the security of the United States from a weapon of mass destruction, even those with low probability of occurrence but high potential consequence, including biological weapons, must be taken seriously through adequate preparation."

The administration's first landmark achievement in this effort was the creation of a presidential directive called "Biodefense for the 21st Century". Signed by Bush in April 2004, it advanced a "comprehensive framework for [America's] biodefence" based on the assumption that a bioweapons attack could devastate America. Despite being premised on a different intent (an attack), the framework described a scenario chillingly similar to what the world experienced with Covid-19, warning that a bioweapons attack could result in "catastrophic numbers of casualties, long-term disease and disability, psychological trauma, and mass panic; disrupt critical sectors of the economy and the day-to-day lives of Americans; and create cascading international effects by disrupting and damaging international trade relationships, potentially globalising the impacts of an attack on United States soil".

That the directive warned about a biological catastrophe resulting from an attack, rather than an unintentional outbreak, was a seemingly natural assumption in the aftermath of 9/11. But even in June 2001, a small number of senior policymakers spent two days running a simulation of a bioweapons attack. Called Dark Winter, it was designed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies and was based on a putative smallpox attack. Intended less to bolster preparedness than to expose vulnerabilities, the operation showed how quickly a public health disaster could lead to widespread chaos and social collapse. This was the stuff nightmares are made of -- and, by all accounts, those were the nightmares that Dick Cheney was having.

Significant as it was, his transformation of America's biodefence framework was part of a much larger repositioning of long-term geopolitical strategy, an effort also led by Cheney. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse in the early Nineties, Cheney, then Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush, along with Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, began formulating a grand strategy for the post-Cold War era. This plan, revealed in an infamous leaked memo, was rooted in a single strategic objective: America should permanently remain the world's superpower. Its architects argued the US would do so only by preserving "strategic depth" to "shape the security environment". The initial leaked memo was later reworked by Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, who broadened the concept of "strategic depth" to cover not only geographic reach but also an ability to wage war with weapons that could not only cripple an enemy's military capabilities but disrupt its political, economic and social stability.

In this context, the Bush Administration began ramping up biodefence spending, which quintupled to $317 million in 2002 alone. But that same year, an unusual respiratory disease started to spread in the Guangdong region of China. Eventually classified as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, the disease would claim the lives of some 800 people as it spread across Asia, Europe, North America, the Mideast, reaching as far as New Zealand.

Although SARS was contained by the summer of 2003, that year the world witnessed the outbreak of yet another respiratory disease. In this case, it was the re-emergence of an avian influenza in the form of a strain known as H5N1, which had long been identified as having pandemic potential. The virus was found to have a terrifying 60% mortality rate.

By 2003, the Bush administration was requesting $2 billion in annual budget for biodefence -- a sum that, as the Los Angeles Times noted, exceeded the combined research budgets for breast cancer, lung cancer, stroke and tuberculosis. That year, Bush announced in his State of the Union address that he would propose a further $6 billion for the development and stockpiling of vaccines over the subsequent decade, in addition to baseline biodefence funding.

The money was essential, but transforming a core element of America's national strategic defence was as much about restructuring the governmental and human aspects of biodefence as it was funding them. In the case of research-based bioweapons preparedness, Cheney's masterstroke was to remove the fragmented biodefence research programmes from various departments, institutes and centres, and place them under the aegis of a single institute: the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), led then, as now, by Anthony Fauci.

A 2003 NIAID article detailed what this shift meant for the relatively obscure public health agency: "In 2003, NIAID was assigned lead responsibility... for civilian biodefence research with a focus on research and early development of medical countermeasures against terrorist threats from infections diseases and radiation exposures. NIAID later assumed responsibility for coordinating the NIH-wide effort to develop medical countermeasures against threats to the civilian population." While the statement is laden with references to "civilian research", it included a crucial caveat that explains much about its role right through the Covid-19 pandemic: "Because new potentially deadly pathogens, such as avian influenza, may be naturally occurring as well as deliberately introduced by terrorists, NIAID's biodefence research is integrated into its larger emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases portfolio."

In other words, as far as NIAID was concerned, there was no meaningful administrative distinction between biodefence and scientific research. With the stroke of Cheney's pen, all United States biodefence efforts, classified or unclassified, were placed under the aegis of Anthony Fauci. So important was this new command structure that a representative from the office of Scooter Libby, Cheney's powerful chief of staff, was physically placed in NIAID headquarters in Washington during the transition to function as "a kind of political commissar" from the vice president's office. This gave Fauci unparalleled access to not just Cheney, but President Bush, to whom he had an open channel.

Fauci now had a virtual carte blanche to not merely approve but design and run the kind of research projects he sought -- and could do so with no oversight structure above him. Biodefence projects that formerly would have fallen under the authority of military or intelligence agencies were now under his direct supervision.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Making Computer Chips Act More like Brain CellsFlexible organic circuits that mimic biological neurons could increase processing speed and might someday hook right into your head (Kurt Kleiner, 8/29/22, Knowable Magazine)

The human brain is an amazing computing machine. Weighing only three pounds or so, it can process information a thousand times faster than the fastest supercomputer, store a thousand times more information than a powerful laptop, and do it all using no more energy than a 20-watt lightbulb.

Researchers are trying to replicate this success using soft, flexible organic materials that can operate like biological neurons and someday might even be able to interconnect with them. Eventually, soft "neuromorphic" computer chips could be implanted directly into the brain, allowing people to control an artificial arm or a computer monitor simply by thinking about it.

Like real neurons -- but unlike conventional computer chips -- these new devices can send and receive both chemical and electrical signals. "Your brain works with chemicals, with neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Our materials are able to interact electrochemically with them," says Alberto Salleo, a materials scientist at Stanford University who wrote about the potential for organic neuromorphic devices in the 2021 Annual Review of Materials Research.

Salleo and other researchers have created electronic devices using these soft organic materials that can act like transistors (which amplify and switch electrical signals) and memory cells (which store information) and other basic electronic components. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A New Approach to Car Batteries Is About to Transform EVs: Auto companies are designing ways to build a car's fuel cells into its frame, making electric rides cheaper, roomier, and able to hit ranges of 620 miles. (MARK ANDREWS, AUG 29, 2022, Wired)

According to Euan McTurk, a consultant battery electrochemist at Plug Life Consulting, since technologies such as cell-to-pack, cell-to-body, and cell-to-chassis battery construction allow batteries to be more efficiently distributed inside the car, they get us much closer to a hypothetical perfect EV battery. "The ultimate battery pack would be one that consists of 100 percent active material. That is, every part of the battery pack stores and releases energy," he says.

Traditionally, EV batteries have used cell modules that are then interconnected into packs. BYD pioneered cell-to-pack technology, which does away with the intermediate module stage and puts the cells directly into the pack. According to Richie Frost, the founder and CEO of Sprint Power, "standard modules may fit well within one pack but leave large areas of 'wasted' space in another pack. By removing the constraints of a module, the number of cells can be maximized within any enclosure."

So cell-to-pack allows the module building blocks to be left out of a battery pack, meaning less wasted volume. BYD has also championed LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries, which have better chemical stability and are cheaper to produce. One problem is that the energy density of LFP cells isn't that good compared to the NCM (nickel cobalt manganese) chemistry cells used in EVs like Hyundai's Kona Electric, Jaguar's I-Pace, and Volkswagen's ID range. However, a cell-to-pack design enables the company to fit more cells into a given space and increase the density to a level closer to that achievable with NCM batteries.

Shenzhen-based BYD is one of the world's most vertically integrated EV producers--meaning it makes the batteries, many of the vehicle components, and the cars themselves--but it actually started out as a battery company. Its biggest rival in the Chinese battery space is Contemporary Amperex Technology, a company that in 2021 was the world's largest EV battery producer, with a 32.6 percent market share. This was largely due to CATL dominating the Chinese market with a 52 percent share.

CATL already has a plant in Germany, along with a $5 billion battery plant under construction in Indonesia and plans for a similar investment in the US. Its own investments in both lithium and cobalt mining help shield the company from commodity price fluctuations. But one of the key factors for CATL's global expansion will be cell-to-chassis technology, where the battery, chassis, and underbody of an EV are integrated as one, completely eliminating the need for a separate battery pack in the vehicle.

Redistributing the batteries' bulk will also free up space in a car's design for a roomier interior, since designers will no longer need to raise the floor height of an EV to stash the cells underneath in a big slab. Freed from these previous constraints, as the cells can make up the entire chassis, manufacturers will be able to squeeze more cells into each EV, thereby increasing range.

CATL estimates that production vehicles of this design will achieve ranges of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) per charge--a 40 percent increase over conventional battery tech. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A New Concept for Low Cost Batteries (Advanced Battery Research, 8/29/22)

As the world builds out ever larger installations of wind and solar power systems, the need is growing fast for economical, large-scale backup systems to provide power when the sun is down and the air is calm. Today's lithium-ion batteries are still too expensive for most such applications, and other options such as pumped hydro require specific topography that's not always available.
Now, researchers at MIT and elsewhere have developed a new kind of battery, made entirely from abundant and inexpensive materials, that could help to fill that gap. The new battery architecture, which uses aluminum and sulfur as its two electrode materials, with a molten salt electrolyte in between, is described today in the journal Nature, in a paper by MIT Professor Donald Sadoway, along with 15 others at MIT and in China, Canada, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
In addition to being expensive, lithium-ion batteries contain a flammable electrolyte, making them less than ideal for transportation. So, Sadoway started studying the periodic table, looking for cheap, Earth-abundant metals that might be able to substitute for lithium. The commercially dominant metal, iron, doesn't have the right electrochemical properties for an efficient battery, he says. But the second-most-abundant metal in the marketplace -- and actually the most abundant metal on Earth -- is aluminum. "So, I said, well, let's just make that a bookend. It's gonna be aluminum," he says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Europe's Plan to Wean Itself off Russian Gas Just Might Work  (MATT REYNOLDS, 8/29/22, MoJo)

"It is important to acknowledge for the EU that increasing this dependency on Russia has been a policy failure," says Ganna Gladkykh, a researcher at the European Energy Research Alliance. The continent is now facing two challenges. First, a cold winter--or several--with gas supplies stretched to their limit, could mean forced blackouts and industry shutdowns. Second, Europe must reduce its dependence on Russian gas, striking new deals with different suppliers and stepping up its renewable rollout. At the end of that road, Europe may find itself in a new era of energy security--no longer reliant on an unpredictable neighbor to the east, but with new dynamics that may bring their own problems.

But first: the crunch. In late July, European Union member states agreed to reduce their gas demand by 15 percent between August 2022 and March 2023. The measures are voluntary, but the EU Council has warned that they may be made mandatory if gas security reaches crisis levels. Some countries have already taken small steps to limit energy demand. Cities in Germany are switching off public lighting, lowering thermostats, and closing swimming pools in order to reduce dependence on Russian gas. France has banned shops from running air-conditioning while doors are open, while Spain--which does not import much Russian gas--now prohibits air-conditioning from being set to less than 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) in public places.

Natural gas is used in three primary ways: for generating electricity in power plants, for heating homes and offices, and in industries like steelmaking and fertilizer manufacture. Although there are alternatives to gas in power plants--German chancellor Olaf Scholz has raised the possibility of extending the life of nuclear power plants in order to cut down gas usage--it's much harder to find alternatives to gas for industry and heating. The EU also has rules that protect households, hospitals, schools, and other essential services from gas-rationing measures.

About a quarter of natural gas in the EU goes to industry--which means that sector may well have to shoulder a large part of the burden of gas reduction, says Chi Kong Chyong, a research associate at the University of Cambridge. The EU is encouraging companies to switch to other forms of fuel, and it has asked member states to draw up lists of which businesses should be asked to stop production in the event of sudden gas shortages. German steelmarker ThyssenKrupp has said it could cope with restricted production, but warns that it may face shutdowns or damage in the event of a gas shortage. The chemical firm BASF has said it will slow down fertilizer production in response to high gas prices.

"The really urgent and tricky thing is heating," says Gladkykh. About half of German homes are heated by gas, accounting for about one-third of all the country's gas consumption. Because consumers are protected from gas rationing by law, the German government is limited in what it can do to limit gas consumption in homes. But advisers to German climate and economic minister Robert Habeck say that high gas prices will likely cause households to reduce their usage anyway. In other words, people will turn their heating down simply because they can't afford to keep it on.

While the EU is trying to curb gas usage, it's also frantically trying to fill up its gas reserves before winter hits. It has set a target of refilling storage to 80 percent of capacity by November 1, which it is on target to reach, although at a cost 10 times higher than the historical average. All of this means that the EU should be able to weather a winter of tight gas supplies, but in the long run it will need to find a way to reduce its reliance on Russian gas altogether.

Even if a cease-fire in Ukraine is negotiated, it's unlikely that the EU will go back to sourcing so much of its gas from Russia. "It's difficult to imagine that we'd be going back to the situation that we had prior to the invasion in Ukraine," says Chyong.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Donald and Cristina show  (James Neilson, 8/12/22, Buenos Aires Times)

Donald Trump says he thinks his enemies, with the eager participation of law-enforcement agencies that should be above taking sides in political disputes, are subjecting him, together with his relatives and friends, to an outrageous campaign of "lawfare" in an attempt to prevent him from continuing to play a leading role in his country's affairs. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would have us believe that much the same is happening to her, with members of what she calls a "judicial party" in cahoots with the opposition plotting to bring her down.

Though the two may greatly dislike the idea, they really do have a great deal in common. As well as having little time for the legal niceties, both former presidents are born authoritarians who expect their supporters to obey their every whim and take as gospel their most casual remarks. They also have the backing of what could be described as the "lower orders" of their respective societies; without the huge number of votes The Donald and Cristina garner from the poor and uneducated, neither of them would have got anywhere near to where they are right now. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Amazon inks multi-billion green hydrogen supply deal with Forrest's electrolyser partner (Sophie Vorrath, 29 August 2022, Renew Economy)

Plug Power, the Nasdaq-listed hydrogen tech outfit linked to Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest's plans to build an electrolyser "gigafactory" facility in Queensland, has inked a supply deal with online retail giant Amazon.

Plug Power says the new deal will see it provide liquid green hydrogen starting in 2025, to help Amazon decarbonise its operations in line with its commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nuclear fusion power inches closer to reality (Pranshu Verma, Aug. 26th, 2022, Washington Post)

As the quest for climate change solutions has become more pressing, more than a dozen private-sector companies have stepped in, with many trying to get a fusion power plant to market by the 2030s. They have a range of approaches, Whyte said, with some using magnetic fields to get plasma hot and stable enough to sustain fusion reactions, while others implode tiny pellets of hydrogen atoms to create fusion reactions.

A handful of these companies have made promising achievements in the past few years, which have enabled them to raise unprecedented levels of cash.

Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a company spun out of MIT, raised $1.8 billion in December. That came nearly three months after it tested a magnet for its tokamak machine that will allow it to achieve "net energy," meaning the machine will be able to make more fusion energy than it takes to sustain reactions.

With the cash, the company is building a facility in Devens, Mass., to build and house a full-scale model of the machine, called SPARC, which is slated to be fully operational by 2025. If that model can achieve net energy, the company plans to build a fusion power plant by the early 2030s, which could plug into the energy grid and begin providing power to homes.

Bob Mumgaard, the company's chief executive, said that's when government collaboration will really help. His company probably will need financial assistance from the Department of Energy's loan program office to fund its power plant, Mumgaard says. The office got funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and has roughly $40 billion in loans available to help fund energy projects that are proven to work but might have a hard time raising money from banks.

"Once the technology is shown to work," Mumgaard said, "it's less risky, and the next buyer of that technology could get a commercial loan."

Phil Larochelle, a partner at the venture capital firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures, said private money is flowing into fusion at such high levels because scientific advancements, such as better magnets, have made cheap nuclear fusion a likelier possibility.

Going forward, Larochelle noted that getting nuclear fusion to market probably will require formal cost-sharing programs with the government, which he said could be similar to how NASA is partnering with SpaceX for space travel innovation.

"In both the U.S. and the U.K., there's now kind of new government programs and support for trying to get to a [fusion] pilot," he said. "It's a good kind of risk-sharing between public and private [sectors]."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Half Century of Student Progress NationwideFirst comprehensive analysis finds broad gains in test scores, with larger gains for students of color than white students (M. Danish Shakeel & Paul E. Peterson, Education Next)

Contrary to what you may have heard, average student achievement has been increasing for half a century. Across 7 million tests taken by U.S. students born between 1954 and 2007, math scores have grown by 95 percent of a standard deviation, or nearly four years' worth of learning. Reading scores have grown by 20 percent of a standard deviation per decade during that time, nearly one year's worth of learning.

When we examine differences by student race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, longstanding assumptions about educational inequality start to falter. Black, Hispanic, and Asian students are improving far more quickly than their white classmates in elementary, middle, and high school. In elementary school, for example, reading scores for white students have grown by 9 percent of a standard deviation each decade, compared to 28 percent for Asian students, 19 percent for Black students, and 13 percent for Hispanic students. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds also are progressing more quickly than their more advantaged peers in elementary and middle school. And for the most part, growth rates have remained steady throughout the past five decades.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Critical Race Theory, replacement theories, and the challenge of political belonging (Nicholas Buck, 26 Aug 2022, ABC Religion & Ethics)

[R]ecent disputes are indicative of how a certain cross-section of the American population has come to experience certain language, cultural artifacts, and narrative(s) of the past as resulting in an account of their political community -- of its history, character, and identity -- within which they struggle to locate or recognise themselves. In other words, I want to suggest that much of the uproar about CRT emerges from a group of people who feel as though they no longer belong to their political communities. On the largest scale, this expresses itself as a concern about belonging to the nation itself.

Belonging is, of course, a slippery concept, but it is critical for understanding politics. What I mean by "belonging" is the ability of persons to see themselves as constitutive members and legitimate expressions of their political community, as parts of that larger whole -- especially in the telling of its past, present, and future. The painful yet unsurprising irony is that the anti-CRT fervour has emerged precisely in response to the telling of US history that better includes persons who have long been kept from belonging.

Political belonging is not only about race, but it often is. Vociferous campaigns against "Critical Race Theory" certainly are. Anxiety about race and belonging can take on an especially violent form -- as we have seen in the so-called "replacement theories" espoused by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia (who notoriously chanted "You will not replace us!") and, apparently, by the gunman in Buffalo, New York.

The Right rejects America the more it achieves our ideal of being inclusive and multi-ethnic/muli-confessional.  They would prefer a Nation of white men, like the Confederacy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The curse of Miserable Older White WomenBoth Left and Right have found a new target (Phoebe Maltz Bovy, August 29, 2022, UnHerd)
There is a corner of the internet that is obsessed with depressed middle-aged women. Or, specifically, is fixated on a four-year-old study, which suggested that 41% of Americans who use antidepressants are white, female and over 45. The obsession has nothing to do with concern for these women. The viral tweeter "Bad" Billy Pratt (@KILLTOPARTY) is representative: in March he posted a graph tracking which demographics "have used antidepressants for at least five years", circled "White women 45+", and captioned this: "Welcome to Hell".

The Miserable Older White Woman emerges from the same blend of old-school misogyny and ageist ugh-mom-ism that brought us first the Wine Mom and then the Karen, in the summer of 2020. In theory, a Karen was a white woman who called the police on black people who were simply minding their own business. In practice, the term started getting used (and is indeed still used) in reference to any woman over the age of 25 who has spoken up, in any context. In the early pandemic days, I was once called "Karen" after asking some teenagers on public transit to put on masks. But anti-maskers also got labelled Karens too, so we can't win (unless we stay silent).

Who has it in for these women? A significant number of the Twitter accounts piling hate on middle-aged women seem to be controlled by young men who give off incel vibes. They are also angry at young women for rejecting them, and their mothers for not sending their favourite meal down to them that evening in their proverbial basement. What is clear is that these women are an avatar for complaints that span, or defy, the ideological spectrum. The Miserable Older White Woman inspires an intense, if difficult to pin down, political fury. Both progressives and the Right seem to agree that "Liberal white women on antidepressants will be the end of our civilisation", but the stereotype allows a range of people to channel a variety of frustrations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Legal Team Scrambles to Find an Argument (Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Aug. 28th, 2022, NY Times)

"There seems to be a huge disconnect between what's actually happening -- a real live court case surrounding a real live investigation -- and what they're actually doing, which is treating it like they've treated everything else, recklessly and thoughtlessly," Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and F.B.I. official, said of Mr. Trump's approach. "And for an average defendant on an average case, that would be a disaster." [...]

The release on Aug. 26 of a partly redacted affidavit used by the Justice Department to justify its search of former President Donald J. Trump's Florida residence included information that provides greater insight into the ongoing investigation into how he handled documents he took with him from the White House. Here are the key takeaways:

The government tried to retrieve the documents for more than a year. The affidavit showed that the National Archives asked Mr. Trump as early as May 2021 for files that needed to be returned. In January, the agency was able to collect 15 boxes of documents. The affidavit included a letter from May 2022 showing that Trump's lawyers knew that he might be in possession of classified materials and that the Justice Department was investigating the matter.

The material included highly classified documents. The F.B.I. said it had examined the 15 boxes Mr. Trump had returned to the National Archives in January and that all but one of them contained documents that were marked classified. The markings suggested that some documents could compromise human intelligence sources and that others were related to foreign intercepts collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Prosecutors are concerned about obstruction and witness intimidation. To obtain the search warrant, the Justice Department had to lay out possible crimes to a judge, and obstruction of justice was among them. In a supporting document, the Justice Department said it had "well-founded concerns that steps may be taken to frustrate or otherwise interfere with this investigation if facts in the affidavit were prematurely disclosed."

Some of the Trump lawyers' efforts have also appeared ineffective or misdirected. Mr. Corcoran, in his May 25 letter, made much of Mr. Trump's powers to declassify material as president, and cited a specific law on the handling of classified material that he said did not apply to a president. The search warrant, however, said federal agents would be seeking evidence of three potential crimes, none of which relied on the classification status of the documents found at Mar-a-Lago; the law on the handling of classified material cited by Mr. Corcoran in the letter was not among them. [...]

Mr. Corcoran in particular has raised eyebrows within the Justice Department for his statements to federal officials during the documents investigation. People briefed on the investigation say officials are uncertain whether Mr. Corcoran was intentionally evasive, or simply unaware of all the material still kept at Mar-a-Lago and found during the Aug. 8 search by the F.B.I. [...]

Even before Mr. Corcoran joined the team, Mr. Trump's legal filings in various cases read like campaign rally speeches that he had dictated to his lawyers. The former president has a history of approaching legal proceedings as if they are political conflicts, in which his best defense is the 74 million people who voted for him in the 2020 election.

And then his true believers wonder why we condescend to them?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Administrative Law Is Bunk: We Need a Bundesverwaltungsgericht  (Michael S. Greve, 11/01/18, Law & Liberty)

The administrative law debate has for decades been preoccupied (especially on the conservative side) with Chevron's metaphysics and judicial review of rulemaking proceedings. Lately, however, agency adjudication has reemerged as a subject of judicial and scholarly attention, and even of public concern. Our "hidden judiciary"--the 12,000-plus administrative law judges and administrative judges who handle the overwhelming portion of administrative cases--has proven sufficiently arbitrary and capricious of late to grab headlines.

What has brought us to this pass are actions like the imposition of civil fines by bureaucratic edict; sudden changes of agency policy, accomplished by means of adjudication and without fair warning to the parties; the opportunistic shifting of enforcement proceedings from Article III courts to agency tribunals; and the administrative invalidation of invention patents, en masse and including patents that cannot be canceled in any court of the United States. This pattern of conduct is of a piece with bureaucratic practices that deprive citizen of any kind of adjudication--"non-final" enforcement actions that effectively thwart private citizens' business operations or use of their land, or the withholding of permits or licenses unless and until applicants meet extortionate demands.

Such irregularities and abuses aren't lapses. They are the natural and, for the most part, fully intended consequences of  the "appellate review" model that has been the bedrock of American administrative law for well over a century. Under that model, agency adjudication comes first, followed by highly deferential, on-the-record judicial review. It is encapsulated in the Supreme Court's foundational decision in Crowell v. Benson (1932), and it is embodied in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

A Time to Be Bold(er)

The appellate review model, I believe, is beyond incremental reform or repair. I propose to decimate and to replace it, over a wide range of governmental action, with a full-scale system of independent administrative courts. Those courts should be endowed with the incentives and the institutional capacity to provide a meaningful check on the regulatory state, and with the capacity to develop, over time, doctrines of administrative law that actually merit that honorific. adding the Judiciary.

August 28, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Germany: Gas storage filling up faster than expected ahead of winter (Deutsche-Welle, 8/28/22)

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that targets set by the government for the filling of gas storage facilities had been reached ahead of schedule, staving off the worst fears of severe gas shortages this winter.

"The reservoirs are filling up quicker than planned," he told German magazine Der Spiegel according to a report published on Sunday. [...]

[W]hile Russian gas accounted for 55% of Germany's consumption in 2021, this has been squashed down to just 9.5% this August. Gas imports from Norway and the Netherlands now make up the brunt of Germany's supply.

Need moves mountains.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republicans, once outraged by Mar-a-Lago search, become quieter as details emerge (Jonathan Weisman, 8/27/22,  New York Times)

In the minutes and hours after the FBI's search of former president Donald Trump's residence in Florida this month, his supporters did not hesitate to denounce what they saw as a blatant abuse of power and outrageous politicization of the Justice Department.

But with the release of a redacted affidavit detailing the justification for the search, the former president's allies were largely silent, a potentially telling reaction with ramifications for his political future.

"I would just caution folks not to draw too many conclusions," Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, a Republican, said on Fox News. It was a starkly different admonition from his earlier condemnations of what he said were "politically motivated actions."

Please replace that section of your MAGApedia with this new one on the Bering Straight.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The real historical event behind HBO's House of the DragonIt might not seem like it, but HBO's House of the Dragon has its roots in a very real civil war in the early medieval period - though there wasn't a dragon in sight (Kev Lochun, August 19, 2022, History Extra)

House of the Dragon is loosely based on a real historical event - a bleak interlude in English history between 1135 and 1153 known as the Anarchy.

It begins with King Henry I, whose succession is thrown into disarray with the White Ship disaster of 1120, which claimed the life of his sole legitimate son, William Adelin.

Though Henry rapidly remarried - to a woman 35 years his junior - he would have no other sons, and so he named his daughter Empress Matilda as his heir, and forced his begrudging court to swear their allegiance to her.

In the case of the Anarchy, it was a cousin rather than a step-sibling who would prove to be the undoing of Henry's best-laid plans.

When Henry I died on 1 December 1135, some nobles declared that the king had released them from their oaths. They looked to continental Europe for an alternative, and they found one in the form of Stephen of Blois, second son of Henry's sister Adela. Twenty-two days after the king's death, Stephen was in London wearing the crown. But Matilda had not renounced her claim to the throne - and so their civil war began.

It wasn't called the Anarchy due to the ferocity of the conflict, but because of the supposed lack of control Stephen had over the country when he was king.

But was it really anarchic? Historian Matthew Lewis questions whether this badge of dishonour is deserved, or the product of revisionism.

"If King Stephen would have recognised anarchy, it was only in the sense of so many diverse threats emerging at once: Empress Matilda in England, her husband Geoffrey conquering Normandy, King David [of Scotland] in the north, and rebel barons," he writes.

Instead, he suggests, could the name be the result of Plantagenet spin? "Stephen's reign was not glorious, but that does not make it anarchic. Few wholly unsuccessful rulers lasted 19 years and died in their bed still wearing the crown."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Putin is trapped and desperate. Will his friends in the west rescue him? (Simon Tisdall, 28 Aug 2022, The Observer)

'The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." So wrote American author Henry David Thoreau in 1854. It's a fate that is rapidly overtaking Vladimir Putin as he struggles to escape the disastrous trap he set for himself in Ukraine.

Russia's president keeps understandably schtum about his "special military operation". But indefinite stalemate is not what he expected. He didn't expect car bombs in Moscow and humiliating attacks on fortress Crimea, either.

Least of all did Putin anticipate 80,000 Russian soldiers dead or wounded. Dying with them is his Peter the Great pipe dream of a "greater Russia". Extinct already is his reputation as anything other than a killer and a crook.

An endless military quagmire is not a scenario Putin can afford as slow-burn western sanctions corrode his economy and his military's manpower and materiel are steadily depleted. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


FBI reportedly examines yet another Mar-a-Lago security breakdown (Steve Benen, 8/26/22, MSNBC)

 The report notes that this woman -- with "a fake identity and shadowy background" -- allegedly bypassed the security at Mar-a-Lago with relative ease

The FBI has reportedly begun an inquiry into the matter, and "at least three people who live in South Florida said they have been interviewed by FBI agents in the past seven months about Ms. Yashchyshyn's activities." The Post-Gazette added:

Her entry -- multiple trips in and out of the club grounds -- lays bare the vulnerabilities of a facility that serves as both the former president's residence and a private club, and highlights the gaps in security that can take place. "That's his residence," said Ed Martin, a former U.S. Treasury special agent who spent more than two decades in criminal intelligence. "She shouldn't have been in there."

A club guest told the newspaper, "What I'm trying to understand is how did they allow this? How could someone keep coming back -- at that level? This is Mar-a-Lago."

Well, yes, and therein lies the point.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who actually chaired the Senate Homeland Security Committee for six years, downplayed the seriousness of Trump's scandal last week because, as the Wisconsinite put it, Mar-a-Lago is "a pretty safe place" and "a secure location."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tired Of The Trump Drama (Rod Dreher, Aug 27, 2022, American Conservative)

As outrageous as the FBI raid on Mar-A-Lago was at first, it was always smart to wait until we knew what the FBI was after, and why, before drawing firm conclusions. Now that we have a better idea, it's clear that the situation was, and is, serious. The former president was believed to have in his possession highly classified documents, some of which disclosed top national security information, that he was not entitled to have. It appears that the government tried repeatedly to get those documents back from him, with no luck.

It seems clear to me, based on what we now know from the redacted affidavit released on Friday, that there were serious and substantive reasons for the raid.

When you've lost even the Putinists you're in trouble.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Violent crime is spiking in Trump's California. These counties blame everyone but themselves (Anita Chabria, Aug. 26, 2022, LA Times)

The biggest risks for homicides came in conservative counties with iron-fist sheriffs and district attorneys, places where progressives in power are nearly as common as monkeys riding unicorns.

Kern County leads the locales where your chance of being murdered is greatest -- with a homicide rate of nearly 14 people per 100,000, compared with about 6 per 100,000 for the state as a whole and 8.5 per 100,000 in Los Angeles County. The number of people annually murdered (a legal term that implies conviction, but you get my point) in Kern has nearly doubled since 2015 to 124 lives last year.

Former President Trump, who legitimately lost the 2020 election, won nearly 54% of the count in Kern. Trump sycophant and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also prevailed handily in Kern, raking in 64% of votes. My colleague Gustavo Arellano profiled Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, pointing out that he's a dying breed of old-school lawman, not one to take the soft approach.

Merced County had the second-highest homicide rate at 9.5 per 100,000 residents. Merced is a political mixed bag, as a "blue wave" of Bay Area refugees and political converts have turned this agricultural stronghold into a nearly equally split county, but one where Democrats are far from a shoo-in to win any election.

Third place goes to Tulare County, running from Delano in the south to a bit north of Visalia, where people were violently killed at a rate of 8.8 per 100,000. Trump took nearly 53% of the vote there in 2020, and McCarthy, who also represents part of the area, took nearly 59%. Recently, after two suspects in a fentanyl bust were released on bail, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told Fox News that "California's system of justice is failing us all."

It's safe to say that none of these counties coddle their criminals -- presidential leanings don't define policy, but they are an indicator of how local politicians and law enforcement think about and handle crime. And yet, not only do these counties share the same problems of dark-blue Los Angeles and San Francisco -- poverty, homelessness, drugs -- they are doing worse on homicides. That's true, even given the fact that a few killings in less-populated counties can mean big jumps in year-to-year statistics.

At the other end of the spectrum is Contra Costa County, which has been successful at beating state averages on crime and has one of the state's only (along with L.A.'s George Gascón) openly progressive district attorneys, Diana Becton.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Major works start on giant project that will propel South Australia to more than 80 pct wind and solar (Giles Parkinson, 28 August 2022, Renew Economy)

Construction on the first stage of a giant wind project that will propel South Australia to more than 80 per cent wind and solar has officially begun, and been formally celebrated by the new state Labor government.

The 412MW Goyder South wind farm - the first stage of what could be the country's biggest wind, solar and battery hybrid project - is considered one of the best assets in the country, with excellent wind speeds and with what will be, at least for a while, the biggest capacity turbines in the country.

August 27, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


The Right's Ironic Fixation on Roman Virtues: The Trumpified right adores the manly and republican virtues of the Romans and the American Founders, but doesn't live up to them. (CORBIN BARTHOLD, AUGUST 25, 2022, The Bulwark)

Yet people keep returning to the Roman virtues for a reason. Like it or not, those virtues are virtues. "Rugged fortitude; frugality; a lack of attachment to material possessions; a religion wonderful in its devotion to the gods; upright dealing; care and attention to justice when dealing with other men." This list of traditional Roman qualities had wide appeal when Posidonius offered it in the first century B.C., and it has wide appeal today.

The attention paid to the Roman past, too, is warranted, or at least warrantable. Those who hope to sustain the American republic would do well to study what happened to the Roman forerunner. Statesmen grew accustomed to discarding the Republic's checks and balances when doing so served their immediate personal ends. Called upon to stand for the constitutional order, they refused. And so the Republic died. By the days of Nero, in the conventional telling, the ideals of the Republic were gone, the nobility was meek, and comfort and security were everywhere prized.

Our Founders took Roman history, and Roman virtue, seriously indeed. The death of republics was their guiding preoccupation, and they were entranced by what historian Forrest McDonald called "the classical cult of manliness." Several of the Founders endorsed the idea that republics are built on public virtue, and that as virtue dissipates republics come apart. They believed that such virtue is a matter (in McDonald's words) of "firmness, courage, endurance, industry, frugal living, strength, and above all, unremitting devotion to the weal of the public's corporate self, the community of virtuous men." In ways large and small, the Founders' virtues are conservative, the conservative virtues Roman.

Like it or not, there is a close if complicated affinity between Roman manhood and American republicanism. The problem is not that the right is willing to point this out. It is that the right's abiding interest in sacred honor should flare just as the right itself becomes a lesson in that decay of national character, that plunge into headlong ruin, examined in the pages of Livy or Gibbon.

A pivotal element of public virtue, in the eyes of Roman and American patriots alike, lay in refusing ever to let one man wield too much power. With that in mind, consider the cascade of ironies behind the charge of "Trump derangement syndrome." It is a term that reliably springs from the lips of people who are themselves obsessed with politics, brimming with sectarian animosity, and deeply influenced by Donald Trump and our country's struggle to deal with him. Whatever overreactions to Trump there have been on the left, it is the right that has let the interests and whims of a single man derange its agenda. It is the right that has let that man's vices derange its behavior. And it is the right that will bear final culpability for the damage the man inflicts on our system of government (a system he disdains), not least because it is the right that wants, more than ever, to pass the man unconfined authority.

Meanwhile, there could hardly be a more farcical spokesman for Roman-style manliness than Josh Hawley. He salutes the rectitude of the long-dead Roman Republic while questioning, through his support of the 2020 election lie, the peaceful transfer of power in the republic we have here and now. He extols the "masculine virtues" (book on sale, May 2023!) despite having riled up, and then ingloriously fled from, a mob at the U.S. Capitol. He lectures us about civics even though he is himself an inveterate partisan and opportunist. He stumps for the public good while supporting a leader, Donald J. Trump, whose political career has been a relentless exercise in putting himself first.

Then, of course, there is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy knows that Trump lost the 2020 election, and he knows that Trump's conduct has been vile. But McCarthy is a poltroon. After the January 6th insurrection, he urged Trump to resign--then denied having done so. Next he sought to derail the work of the January 6th Committee, and to purge the few members of his party willing to denounce Trump's deceits and provocations. He will mouth any absurdity, bear any indignity, to maintain his position. "Of all the elements of cowardice that have afflicted the Republican Party," notes journalist Mark Leibovich, "a particularly pathetic one is the terror" that McCarthy and his ilk have "about losing their jobs."

If only the trouble ended there. Hawley is not without a sense of what his constituents wish to hear. Many Republicans indeed try to impart to their children something like the Roman ethic. Work hard. Be steadfast. Be reliable. Serve your country. And most of all, speak up for the truth: call things what they are. Yet Trumpism, regrettably, painfully, tragically, is driving a moral collapse at the level of the family. Parents who once promoted honesty and decency--who would strenuously deny having discarded them--have been undone by our political moment. Fathers and mothers who once said, "If Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" now say, "But the Democrats are just as bad." "But Obama started it." "But absentee ballots are a concern." "But Antifa rioted outside a courthouse." "But Pelosi wouldn't let Jim Jordan on the January 6th Committee." "But Hillary's emails!" This is now the talk of the dinner table. Projection. Deflection. False equivalence. Special pleading. A deep-seated aversion to saying what is true. These are becoming the habits of the Republican household.

Thus the party of manly virtue. Timid leaders; voters cold to displays of civic piety. The threads meet in the fate of Rep. Liz Cheney. Defying what is now indisputably the Republican establishment, Cheney has called things what they are: Trump violated his oath of office. He dupes his voters. He cannot be trusted to hold power again. In speaking some simple truths, Cheney put her republic and its Constitution ahead of her party and herself. In response, McCarthy denounced her, helped oust her from party leadership, and endorsed her GOP primary opponent, Harriet Hageman. That primary hinged on one issue: Hageman was willing to lie, while Cheney was not. And so Cheney lost.

"I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible," Cheney declared during a January 6th Committee hearing. "There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain." Perhaps Cheney is no Regulus, but she is a proven authority on the subject of honor. Unlike most Republican politicians, in fact, she dares do all that may become a man.

Queer that the only virtue they valorize is subservience to Little Fingers

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Al Wolters's Conservatism: Albert Wolters's conservatism, based on his metaphysical view of the structure of creation, encourages us to view America with neither optimism nor pessimism but with an eye toward healing and cultivation. As a counterweight to ideological extremes and rigid traditionalism, his approach promises the chance of real progress. (Collin Slowey, 8/25/22, Public Discourse)

Wolters's distinctive metaphysical vision has significant political implications. When it comes to a political worldview, people can be roughly divided into three camps: those who believe the world they have inherited is irredeemably flawed and must be replaced with a new one based on abstract ideals; those who consecrate the status quo and reject any movement for change; and those who see the world as flawed but with the potential for redemption and improvement, who support prudent change but not the full-scale destruction of what they have received. The first camp belongs to the various strains of ideologue, most notably progressive liberals and Marxists, but also ideologues on the Right. The second camp belongs to uncritical traditionalists. The third camp belongs to conservatism. Wolters's arguments in Creation Regained lend much credence to the third and deal powerful blows against the first two.

Like Eric Voegelin, Wolters equates the ideological camp with the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. "There seems to be an ingrained Gnostic streak in human thinking," he writes, "a streak that causes people to blame some aspect of God's handiwork for the ills and woes of the world we live in." By the same logic, those who oppose social and cultural change outright are Gnostics, too. While ideologues reject the goodness of creation as given, rigid traditionalists reject the goodness of creation as developed by human beings. Only conservatism threads the needle between these inverse heresies and is compatible with Christianity's "uncompromising rejection of all attempts to confuse structure and direction."

Wolters's framework also positions conservatism as the virtuous mean between the extremes of political optimism and political pessimism. Wolters states that outside of what he calls the "reformational worldview," one is doomed only to see either "the debilitating effects of sin" or positive development of God's creation in the work of society and culture. Contemporary American politics bears that out. Some on the Right blithely overlook the sins of America's past, and some on the Left ignore the limits of human progress, because they see only structure in history. Meanwhile, anti-modern reactionaries and the Democratic Party's critical theory adherents cannot look past the directional flaws of the present.

Because none of these groups sees America for what it truly is, none is capable of doing it much good. The optimists are in love with a fiction and therefore cannot engage effectively with reality, and the pessimists are not interested in reforming America so much as they are in replacing it, whether with an imitation of medieval Europe or a neo-Marxist utopia. A Woltersian conservatism, on the other hand, would allow us to approach our country with neither optimism nor pessimism but with an eye toward healing and cultivation. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


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6 months of war: How Russia got derailed in Ukraine (Illia Ponomarenko, 8/24/22, Kyiv Independent)

By the end of the day of Feb. 24, Ukraine's 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade, part of the National Guard, made a picture of its soldiers rejoicing and demonstrating a bullet-riddled Ukrainian flag at the airfield facilities. 

Russia's "invincible airborne" that landed in Hostomel had been encircled and destroyed.

That was just the beginning of the Battle of Kyiv. The fighting continued for weeks. But Russia's disastrous plan to try to score a rapid victory determined the battle's result -- the complete Russian withdrawal from Ukraine's north. 

Six months later, those memories feel like they were from a different war. 

Instead of a splendid blitzkrieg and a rapid triumph over a hopeless Ukraine, the Kremlin slipped into a brutal, prolonged battlefield war it never expected to fight.

The Russian military suffered humiliating defeats, triggered massive Western arms supplies to Ukraine, and wasted months gaining desolated territories in Ukraine's east. 

Over these six months, the war has gone from the expectation that Kyiv will fall within 72 hours to Russia having its strategic airfields in Crimea devastated by Ukrainian attacks. 

Now the 1,000-kilometer front line has largely stabilized. 

Russia, exhausted by unreasonably costly battles in the previous months, finds it increasingly hard to secure any significant gains. Moreover, it struggles to generate high-quality military power to compensate for its losses and step up its effort against Ukraine. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Pumped hydro: The power of gravity and moving water (Phil Scott,  27 August 2022, Renew Economy)

Australians want their energy on-demand, and individuals, as well as businesses, are increasingly expecting it to come from a renewable source. An essential attribute of our nation's energy system is grid reliability - ensuring that energy generation matches demand in real-time.

The 'why' to the pumped hydro's re-emergence in Australia is its ability to provide firming capacity to the grid. This means it can provide electricity over long time scales, with efficiency, especially during peak demand.

In particular, it supports the national energy grid by storing excess energy when wind or solar is generating, and filling in the gaps when they are not. This firming of renewable energy generation will help to support the country's transition away from fossil fuels.

Pumped hydro projects currently in the pipeline in Australia include Snowy 2.0 in New South Wales, Kidston and Borumba Pumped Hydro Projects in Queensland, Tasmania's Battery of the Nation and a number of other development projects.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


What Texas Never Learned From the California Energy Crisis (DARREN BUSH, August 26, 2022, ProMarket)

May 2022 was already hot in Texas. The state's troubles increased with capacity shortages as six generation plants went offline. In one instance, ERCOT had asked a plant to stay online to meet demand instead of shutting down for scheduled maintenance. It went offline the next day. 

The problem with capacity in Texas would be familiar to anyone who knows you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket. Wind and solar generation have a place, but the wind does not always blow in west Texas. Delivering the power might be another issue. Thus, to assure grid stability, flexible generation capacity is located near cities. That simply hasn't happened. No new combined-cycle gas-fired generation has been added to the fuel mix. And, as energy expert Ed Hirs has stated, some of that capacity is old and has not been maintained.

During the California crisis, capacity shortages arose from unplanned outages, too. Hot temperatures, high demand, and capacity shortages (whether manufactured or legitimate) led to Summer shortages in 2000. One component of those shortages was that hydroelectric power dried up. That fall saw more shortages, caused due to plants taken offline for maintenance and emissions reasons. Eventually, high wholesale prices also caused another problem: As Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison suddenly realized that their income was exceeded by their costs of supplying power, each company made public statements threatening to declare bankruptcy and claim insolvency. Gas suppliers, out-of-state generators, and marketers began to refuse to sell to these utilities because of concerns that the utilities might file for bankruptcy. 

Then came some very tight spreads between supply and demand this summer, causing ERCOT to ask for consumers to up their thermostats and curtail load. In part, the plea came as the backbone of the ERCOT grid, wind and solar, had diminished capacity. The response was mixed: Consumers responded out of fear of outages, but there was hostility and frustration at the fragility of the grid. As energy expert Ed Hirs states, "This has got to be extremely frustrating for the consumer, because as we look out, we see prices really really high and ERCOT telling us to use much less at a time when we need it most." Demand reached record highs.

California, too, pled for demand responsiveness. But it wasn't until Californians felt the price increases in their pocketbooks that demand shrunk by 14 percent. Before that, California had guaranteed that its residents would receive a 10 percent reduction in their electricity bills. 

The promise that a deregulated market would lead to lower prices is full of assumptions. The first assumption is that the regulated price was inefficiently above cost. Thus, the price had nowhere to go but down. Second, it assumes a static market once the "rules of the game" of competition are instilled. However, those rules will change outcomes as incentives change. Third, it presumes market responses that may not be there: For example, capacity additions would be the natural result of price increases, not the quiet enjoyment of monopoly power.

For ERCOT, there is no help. ERCOT outright refuses to be subject to Federal regulation, and therefore refuses any serious levels of interconnection with the rest of the US. There have been arguments that other markets nearby would be unable to help, even if they were interconnected.

California had help during its energy crisis, but that help quickly dried up. Historically, California had been a net importer from neighboring states. However, due to the increased electricity demand and decreased supply due to low rainfall in the Western Interconnect, neighboring states have had less energy to sell to energy-starved California. Thus, California was unable to obtain resources from outside the state and was unwilling to build resources inside the state. 

Sadly, it seems that if ERCOT has learned anything, it is merely how to repeat the mistakes of California. ERCOT refuses to import power to avoid Federal oversight. The only other options for Texas are increased generation within the state, reductions in demand, and to some degree, transmission to decrease congestion.

Here, ERCOT again follows California. Generators in California (many owned by Texas companies) learned that less capacity means higher prices. That means there is no incentive to build generation in Texas, or increase the reliability of existing plants. This incentive structure creates scarcity. As Californians can tell you, scarcity that creates unbridled market power leads to disaster.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


White House launches new war on secrecy (BRYAN BENDER, 08/23/2022, Politico)

The yearlong review marks the first such attempt to rein in the classification system in more than a decade, after what insiders and oversight authorities say has been frustratingly little progress since the Obama administration took on the task.

The National Archives and Records Administration estimates that government agencies create petabytes -- or millions of gigabytes -- of classified information each year, a trend that has only increased in the decades since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States led already tight-lipped agencies to clamp down more.

Tens of billions of dollars are spent on classifying information, while only a fraction is dedicated to declassifying information.

"We believe there is immense potential to improve government efficiency and transparency simultaneously within this effort," stated an internal June 2 memo from Yohannes Abraham, the executive secretary of the National Security Council.

A major focus, he said, is "revising or replacing" Executive Order 13526 that was issued by President Barack Obama in 2009 setting the parameters for classified national security information.

Up for review are the criteria for classification, how much is spent on declassification, and a reconsideration of what qualifies for the highest levels of protection, such as "special access programs," the memo added.

The review is also scrubbing Executive Order 13556 governing "controlled unclassified information" that Obama also signed in 2010 -- but was also widely considered to have fallen short of the goal of forcing into public view more government files.

Helping to advise the effort is a critic of what many consider to be an epidemic of over classification, current and former officials said.

John Powers is the associate director for classification management at the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives and Records Administration, which advises the president on the security classification system and has been advocating for reducing secrecy.

Powers also worked at the National Security Council from 2015 to 2018.

Joe might finally do something worthwhile?

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


Justice Kagan and Textualism: That word does not mean what she thinks it means (Evelyn Johns, August 26, 2022, Discourse)

Rarely, if ever, has the Supreme Court stepped back from its well-established pattern of judicial overreach, voluntarily relinquishing power to another branch of government. But with several recent decisions, a majority of the Court has demonstrated a willingness to do just that. For too long, judges have acted as "politicians in robes," dictating important matters of public policy in all 50 states.

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the Court overruled the decisions in Roe v. Wade (1973) and its follow-up Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). The Roe Court purported to find a right to abortion that springs from a right to privacy found somewhere in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth or Fourteenth Amendments, conceding that "the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy." The Court has previously found some unenumerated rights (e.g., the right to marital privacy, right to travel, right to vote) protected by implication from other text in the Constitution and historical practice. Yet few constitutional rights are absolute. Determining the extent to which a constitutional right is protected against government regulation requires consideration of temporal framing mechanisms such as the original meaning, what other rights existed at that time and what canons of construction were commonly used by courts.

For example, the right of privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment can be overcome by a warrant, and the right to free speech may be subject to "time, place and manner" restrictions or fighting-words exceptions. So there is no textual basis to support a conclusion that an implied right of privacy, without more, prevents government from regulating based on arbitrary timelines or balancing tests.

According to the Dobbs majority opinion, the Court in Roe "did not claim that American law or the common law had ever recognized [a right to abortion]," and the opinion was more legislative than judicial. Nothing in the text of the Constitution itself supported the conclusion that the federal government had authority to restrict the states in their regulation of abortion. Because the Constitution is silent on the issue of abortion, the authority to regulate abortion is properly returned to the people and their elected representatives in the states. Justice Kagan's accusation does not hold up--textualism does not mean reading new rights into constitutional or statutory silence.

And when an opinion diverges from the text, it is up to the Court to correct that decision. As Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his Dobbs concurrence, the Court "ha[s] a duty to 'correct the error' established" in other substantive due process cases (those that deal with unenumerated rights) and reconsider whether the rights at issue there are supported by constitutional text such as the Fourteenth Amendment's privileges or immunities clause.

In West Virginia v. EPA, the Court considered the scope of the EPA's regulatory reach as authorized under the text of the Clean Air Act, concluding that Congress did not grant the agency the authority to regulate national energy policy by issuing significant rules governing emissions caps. The Court's opinion describes the type of authority the agency purported to have as implicating a major question of policy. After analyzing the text, history and precedent, the Court found that a "clear statement" from Congress was required when an executive agency claims widespread authority to effectuate major policy changes.

The premise of this major questions doctrine is that Congress must clearly articulate the parameters of large grants of authority to agencies because of the lack of checks and balances once those agencies are empowered. This idea of requiring Congress to specifically define agency authority is not new. Then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh explained in his dissent from the D.C. Circuit case U.S. Telecom Assocation v. FCC (2017) that "Congress must clearly authorize an agency to issue a major rule." And as Justice Antonin Scalia explained in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations (2001), Congress does not fundamentally alter regulatory schemes through "vague terms or ancillary provisions--it does not, one might say, hide elephants in mouseholes." Again, Justice Kagan's accusation of using a special new method of interpreting statutes does not hold up.

Put simply, as Justice Felix Frankfurter would have advised: "Read the statute, read the statute, read the statute!" need to change the text.
Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


Massachusetts likely to ban new gas-powered cars, thanks to California (Hiawatha Bray, August 26, 2022, Boston Globe)

California's newly announced ban on sales of fossil-fuel-burning cars and small trucks starting in 2035 has cleared the way for a similar ban in Massachusetts. That's because of a provision in Massachusetts's new climate change law, as well as a unique feature in federal law that lets California set environmental standards for other US states.

In late 2020, Governor Charlie Baker endorsed a ban on fossil-fuel vehicles by 2035, and language to that effect was included in the climate bill he signed earlier this month. But Massachusetts couldn't enforce the requirement unless California went first.

California sneezed.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


DACA has been a socioeconomic success. So why are Dreamers still in limbo? (Marcela García, August 26, 2022, Boston Globe)


August 26, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


It's Over: Trump Will Be Indicted (Brad Moss, Aug. 26, 2022, Daily  Beast)

Even with all its redactions, the probable cause affidavit published today by the magistrate judge in Florida makes clear to me three essential points:

(1) Trump was in unauthorized possession of national defense information, namely properly marked classified documents.

(2) He was put on notice by the U.S. Government that he was not permitted to retain those documents at Mar-a-Lago.

(3) He continued to maintain possession of the documents (and allegedly undertook efforts to conceal them in different places throughout the property) up until the FBI finally executed a search warrant earlier this month.

That is the ball game, folks. 

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Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Is There a College Financing Crisis? (Jason Delisle & Preston Cooper, Summer 2021, National Affairs)

Proposals involving mass student-loan forgiveness are motivated in part by the belief that student debt has grown to crushing levels in recent decades. Debt-cancellation proponents claim that most borrowers are unable to afford their payments and that their debt acts as a drag on economic growth. They blame student-loan debt for all sorts of economic ills, from lower home-ownership rates to stifled consumer spending to reduced rates of small-business formation.

Given Americans' collective student-loan debt, forecasts of imminent catastrophe are easy to believe. And there's simply no denying that the overall debt burden has increased rapidly over the past 20 years. In 2000, outstanding federal student loans totaled approximately $318 billion in today's dollars. That figure now stands at $1.6 trillion. More recently, student debt has eclipsed credit-card debt and auto loans to become the second-largest form of consumer debt in America -- only home-mortgage debt is larger.

Yet several empirical studies reveal a far less alarming picture than the $1.6 trillion figure suggests. The reason? These studies use data about borrowers themselves rather than summary statistics about the entire stock of debt. This lens helps reveal that rising levels of overall debt do not necessarily translate into larger debt burdens on individuals. It also suggests that rising student debt may not be a categorically negative development.

A recent study by the J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. Institute, for instance, examined checking-account transactions of 4.6 million households to determine how much borrowers were paying monthly on their student loans before pandemic legislation put federal loans into forbearance. In other words, rather than calculating the total outstanding debt students owe as a collective, the study examined students' individual payments. Researchers also compared these payments to borrowers' take-home pay to assess the financial burden they impose.

The authors of the J. P. Morgan study found that the typical borrower examined had a student-loan payment of $179 per month, which was just 5.5% of his monthly take-home pay. It's hard to imagine student debt having a significant impact on household financial decisions when, for the majority of borrowers, payments are less than $200 per month. And at 5.5% of take-home pay, these payments are in line with what experts have argued are reasonable and affordable. Such statistics are hardly consistent with claims that borrowers are being overwhelmed by student-loan debt.

How do those payments compare to what borrowers paid 20 or even 30 years ago, before the more recent run-up in debt? Surprisingly, typical payments weren't any lower back then. A 2002 survey of student-loan borrowers conducted by Nellie Mae -- a financial institution that had a major presence in the market at the time -- found that median monthly payments in today's dollars were about $280 that year. This is considerably higher than the $179 in monthly payments that today's borrowers typically pay.

Like the J. P. Morgan study, the Nellie Mae study also assessed payments relative to borrower earnings. It found that, at the median, monthly student-loan payments were about 8% of a borrower's earnings. Again, this is higher than the 5.5% figure the typical borrower pays today.

Furthermore, a 2014 Brookings Institution study by Beth Akers and Matthew Chingos suggests that student-debt burdens relative to income have not increased over time. Using data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, the authors found that student-loan payments relative to income were constant from 1992 to 2010 -- at about 4% of household income.

How could overall student-debt levels increase so dramatically while burdens on individual borrowers remain steady? One possible explanation is that rising incomes can support higher levels of debt. The Akers and Chingos study suggests that earnings among borrowers have increased at rates that have kept pace with rising debt, which is consistent with this theory. Interest rates on debt have also fallen considerably over time, putting downward pressure on payments even as debt levels have increased. In the 1990s and early 2000s, interest rates on student loans for undergraduates stood at about 8%. Today, they are less than 5%.

Additionally, two demographic trends have contributed to rising cumulative debt in a way that does not necessarily translate into increasingly burdensome payments. One is that a greater share of the population is attending some form of higher education than in the past. Today, about 41% of young adults enroll in some form of post-secondary education, which is up from about 34% in the 1990s. Enrollment among older non-traditional students has increased at even higher rates. Given that a larger share of the population is pursuing a post-secondary degree, we should expect the outstanding stock of debt to rise, but per-borrower payments need not also increase.

The other demographic trend boosting levels of outstanding debt is more surprising -- and largely missing from the debate over mass loan forgiveness. U.S. Department of Education data show that while students from low-income families are about as likely to borrow money to finance their education today as they were in the mid-1990s, students from upper-income families are almost twice as likely to borrow today than they were 25 years ago. The dynamic of a large new demographic group taking on student-loan debt is likely contributing to the rapid run-up of total outstanding debt -- but again, this would not necessarily translate into larger per-borrower loan burdens than in the past.

New government policies have also played a role in helping keep borrowers' payments low. In 2009, all borrowers in the federal loan program -- through which the vast majority of student loans are issued -- gained access to Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans. This change made monthly payments more affordable for low- to middle-income borrowers. Obama-era policies made the programs even more generous in 2012.

Currently, IDR plans allow borrowers to set their payments at 10% of their income over an exemption of $19,000 for a single individual or $40,000 for a family of four. For most of these borrowers, remaining debts are forgiven after 20 years of payments. About half of all outstanding federal student loans are repaid through an IDR plan, and the typical payment for borrowers enrolled in these plans ranges from $91 to $154 per month. If all borrowers in the federal loan program can now make low payments based on their incomes -- and the data show many have opted to do so -- then it stands to reason that payments on the overall stock of debt would not have increased in proportion to the rise in overall debt.

Another body of research casts doubt on the claims that student loans are ineffective at increasing college access and do more harm than good for borrowers. Two separate studies using experimental designs -- one conducted by Benjamin Marx and Lesley Turner, and another by Andrew Barr, Kelli Bird, and Benjamin Castleman -- found that community-college students who took on more debt tended to see better outcomes in their schooling, including better grades, higher completion rates, and fewer loan defaults after leaving school. This suggests that, in the right context, some students are better off for having student debt than they would be if they had not borrowed for school.

A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that focused on students attending four-year institutions reached similar conclusions. After controlling for multiple differences among students, the authors found that those who borrowed at higher levels were more likely to finish their degrees and had higher earnings later in life than those who did not. Moreover, borrowing more heavily to attend school did not result in higher loan defaults and had no effect on home-ownership rates.

Taken together, this evidence challenges the case for mass student-loan forgiveness. As we will discuss later on, there are reasons for concern over other student-debt trends. But these problems hardly suggest mass loan forgiveness as a necessary -- or even a suitable -- response.

Instead, put $10k in an IRA fror every American between 1 and 30. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Personal Income and Outlays, July 2022 (BEA, 8/26/22))

The PCE price index decreased 0.1 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.1 percent (table 9).

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Growing use of apartheid label for Israel 'a wake up call', Israeli ex-negotiator concedes (The New Arab, 26 August, 2022)

Daniel Levy, who was an official negotiator for the Israeli government at the Oslo talks, made the comments at a UN Security Council session on the situation in the Middle East region, where speakers said they were alarmed by Israel's bombing of the besieged Gaza Strip and the raiding of NGO offices in the occupied West Bank.

"We know of certain developments that can at the same time be both politically uncomfortable and politically salient. The increasingly weighty body of scholarly, legal and public opinion that has designated Israel to be perpetrating apartheid in the territories under its control is just such a development," Levy said. [...]

Levy said the significance of the use of the term by rights groups and by Arab, African and Islamic groups at the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year could not be ignored.

"It will come as little surprise if this echoes and resonates in parts of the world that have experienced apartheid and settler colonialism and have gone through decolonisation," Levy, who was once a senior advisor to the Israeli prime minister's office, told the council.

"It is a paradigm that will also bring the discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel into sharper relief."

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


Germany, Denmark sign deal to ramp up renewable energy (Deutsche-Welle, 8/26/22)

The two countries will seek to "dramatically upscale" wind farm projects in the North and Baltic Seas, a statement from Germany's Foreign Ministry said, along with plans to use wind energy to produce green hydrogen which can then be piped to Germany.

A statement from Germany's Foreign Ministry said while Denmark has an abundance of renewable energy sources, its hydrogen needs are expected to be far lower than its neighbor to the south.

As Europe's largest economy phases out fossil fuels, it will increasingly need hydrogen to power its heavy steel and chemical industries.

The ministry said the neighbors would begin a dialogue on building the infrastructure required to transport hydrogen through pipes between Denmark and Germany.

The commitment also includes plans to cooperate on carbon capture and storage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That was easy. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM


Trump fan who assaulted Capitol cops with Trump flag, billboard on Jan. 6 gets over 3.5 years in prison (Ryan J. Reilly, 8/26/22, NBC News)

The government said that Howard Richardson, a 72-year-old from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, "contributed to the breach of the police line that led directly to the storming of the Capitol doors." Federal prosecutors sought 46 months of incarceration for Richardson, who is the father of a 20-year veteran police officer, according to the government.

"Richardson also wrongly insisted that he carried a 'Back the Blue' flag on January 6 and not a Trump flag," the government said, adding (misspelling "unfazed"): "Apparently unphased by the irony of using a pro-police symbol to attack a police officer, Richardson made this assertion even though the video footage clearly shows his flag is a blue and red 'Trump' flag."

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


Why the redacted affidavit for the search of Trump's home is so concerning (Ryan McCarthy  Aug 26, 2022, Vox)

It notes that, among the 15 boxes that Trump returned to the National Archives earlier this year, there were "184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET."

The FBI believed there were additional documents at Mar-a-Lago, but that they'd also find evidence of obstruction of justice there as well: "Further, there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI [National Defense Information] or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the PREMISES [Mar-a-Lago]. There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the PREMISES."

Politico's Andrew Desiderio noted on Twitter that some of the documents allegedly contained human intelligence source information and foreign intelligence intercepts. That is, information that could reveal the actual identities of intelligence sources or closely guarded intel on US adversaries allies. This kind of intelligence is obviously extremely closely guarded and its exposure could put lives or sources at risk.

Classified and sensitive documents were allegedly stored at multiple unsecure locations at Mar-a-Lago.

Posted by orrinj at 2:06 PM


Trump Mar-a-Lago affidavit reveals 'handwritten notes,' highly classified material led to warrant request (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 08/26/2022, Politico)

Prosecutors also added in another court filing unsealed Friday that the ongoing criminal probe into government records stashed at Trump's Florida home has involved "a significant number of civilian witnesses" whose safety could be jeopardized if their identities were revealed.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Hydrogen trains begin regular operation in Germany, in world first (Hannah Naylor, 26 August 2022, Renew Economy)

In a first step, the hydrogen trains will replace 15 diesel-powered trains in Lower Saxony's local public transport system, where diesel engines are still widespread due to the lack of overhead electric rail infrastructure, news magazine Der Spiegel said.

The advantage that hydrogen trains have over their other battery-powered competitor, which run alongside diesel ones in areas of Germany yet to have the rail electrified, is that they do not need to be refuelled as often as their battery-powered counterparts need to be recharged. This increases the flexibility of journey lengths they are suitable for.

The town of Bremervörde, where the filling station is located, has said in the future the trains will be run exclusively by green hydrogen - produced via electrolysis from renewable power.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Putin orders an increase in the size of the Russian military (Ivan Nechepurenko and Marc Santora, 8/26/22,  New York Times)

While enjoying a significant superiority in artillery and in long-distance missiles, Russia's forces have been unable to capture significant territory since the beginning of July, when the city of Lysychansk in the country's Luhansk region fell. [...]

So far, Putin has avoided mass conscription to provide soldiers for the war in Ukraine. One reason is that declaring a national draft would destroy the veneer of normalcy that the Kremlin has been able to maintain despite economic sanctions and continuing fighting.

Instead, Russian authorities have been luring recruits to join combat by offering them hefty cash incentives and other perquisites. At the end of May, Putin also signed a law that scrapped the age limit of 40 for contract soldiers.

Pavel Luzin, a Russian military analyst, said that he was skeptical about Russia's ability to increase its armed forces without major changes.

He said that Putin's decree would only increase the number of troops "on paper against the reality on the ground," unless Russia is forced to increase the duration of compulsory service from one year to 18 months. Another solution, he said, would be absorbing some of the country's national guard forces into the army.

What's a poor fella to do when he realizes there aren't enough guys of his Identity to matter?

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 AM


White House targets GOP lawmakers calling student loan plan unfair (Shawna Chen, 8/26/22, Axios)

A video circulated this week of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) saying, "For our government just to say, 'OK, your debt is completely forgiven.' ... It's completely unfair." In response, the White House's official account tweeted: "Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven."

In similar comments, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) tweeted, "Asking plumbers and carpenters to pay off the loans of Wall Street advisors and lawyers isn't just unfair. It's also bad policy."

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) tweeted, "This places undue burden on those already suffering due to the weight of Biden's failed economic policy."

Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) also claimed the plan forces Americans to pay for other people's college degrees.

The big picture: The official White House Twitter account listed the value of what it said was each lawmaker's forgiven PPP loans in corresponding tweets: Kelly at $987,237, Mullin at over $1.4 million and Hern at over $1 million.

The White House tweeted that Rep. Matt Gaetz's (R-Fla.) had forgiven PPP loans of $482,321 -- though that was in response to the lawmaker's criticism of Ukrainian aid spending.

All comedy is conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 AM


Trump's Argentinian cousin? (David Smith, 25 August, 2022, The Critic)

So, Donald Trump is working overtime on how best to avoid justice and return to power. What to do? Perhaps he need look no further than crisis-ridden Argentina for a strategy.

Just as Trump faces new investigations, over everything from espionage with classified intelligence documents to his byzantine tax affairs, so his likeness in Argentina -- also a former president -- squares off with a prosecutor who has just demanded that she face twelve years in prison and that she be banned from government for life.

Yes, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina from 2007-2015, now Vice President of Argentina and the person who really runs the country, has been charged with corruption on a massive scale. In the latest charge sheet the prosecutor has detailed alleged misuse of a billion dollars of state funds -- just one of multiple cases in court against her. She denies all charges.

What is so striking, watching the drama unfold on the other side of the world, is that Trump's denials and counter-offensives look eerily reminiscent of the strategy employed by Ms Fernandez and her supporters. Indeed, the Donald may have learned a lesson or three from the campaign she has waged -- not just a campaign to keep herself and her children out of prison, but to use power to re-work the judiciary to her liking, in the service of her survival. 

The Right is the Left.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 AM


It's taken 50 years for 100 pct renewables to move from pipe dream to expectation (Amalyah Hart, 26 August 2022, Renew Economy)

The 1973 oil price crisis that driven by political embargoes sent shockwaves through the global economy. By the embargo's end in 1974, the global oil price had risen by nearly 300%. This "first oil shock" was early demonstration of the power of political uncertainty over fuel security in a fossil-fuel dependent world. 

That crisis also spurred the earliest academic interest in the idea of an energy system based solely on renewables. In a hauntingly prescient Science article in 1975, Danish Physicist Bent Sørensen decried society's failure to harness the planet's ample renewable resources in favour of hungrily consuming finite geological fuels.

Sørensen outlined a plan in which solar and wind power could supply Denmark's needs in totality by 2050 - a date that then, unlike now, must have seemed comfortingly distant. [...]

It took a while for other academics to follow Sørensen. None followed for 20 years and only 12 in the next 30 years, according to the authors of a new report from LUT University.

Now, however, hundreds of scientific studies have demonstrated pathways to a 100% renewables-based energy system, on the local, national, and global scale.

What was once a pipe dream is finally seen as an attainable reality, and a shared expectation. More than 61 countries across the world have set 100 per cent renewable targets, for at least the power sector.

In Australia, the market operator has mapped a number of different scenarios to 100 per cent renewables, or close to it, on the main grid, and the federal government expects 82 per cent renewables by 2030, mostly through wind and solar. 

Pretty staggering that we're going to achieve this so quickly given how we've deflated carbon costs (minus the externalities). 

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


California says new cars must be zero emission by 2035 (AFP, August 25, 2022)

California ruled Thursday that all new cars sold in America's most populous state must be zero emission from 2035, in what was billed as a nation-leading step to slash the pollutants that cause global warming.

The Right can rage against the sun until they're as blue in the face as their pills, but if California won't sell gas guzzlers the car companies won't manufacture them. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 AM


The Baby and the Bathwater: Neither religious conservatism nor liberalism should be discarded. (Daniel Klein & Daniel J. Mahoney, 8/23/22, Law & Liberty)

Now we turn to the other baby abused. Compared to the great benevolent monotheisms, which started in the ancient world, the 'baby' we turn to now is, like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, 'classical' only within the modern period, as Constant said. This little angel is younger than Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

If liberalism means what the integralists say it means, then one must be sympathetic to large parts of their critique. Yoram Hazony's characterization of the liberal tradition is not entirely satisfactory, yet he remains a stalwart of constitutionalism in his recent book Conservatism: A Rediscovery. We sympathize with his criticisms of abstract rationalism but much prefer the mix of principle and prudence to be found in the conservative liberal traditions. And as Richard Reinsch has noted in his review of Hazony's book, Hazony's "historical empiricism" seems to depend on a sort of "biblical positivism" to do the work of practical reason. Hazony also rejects any appeal to "natural rights," rather than tying them in a salutary way to older moral understandings that give the exercise of rights heft and balance. To be sure, Hazony's "conservative democracy" provides some guidance for addressing our crisis. But conservative democracy is hardly conservative, prudent, or sober if it positions itself aggressively against the classical liberal tradition. 

By denying the possibility of a conservatism that includes the best liberal theory and practice, the integralists have largely left behind the conservatism that Americans rightly associate with Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, George Will, and Thomas Sowell.

The integralists tend to create a 'liberalism' strawman. Sometimes they bundle, when they should separate, Smithian liberalism and the leftism that for more than a century has in certain quarters of the world passed itself off as 'liberal.' Contrary to various representations of the integralists, Hazony, and others, Smithian liberalism: 

is not rationalistic or axiomatic, 
is not favorable to radical autonomy, 
is not unappreciative of custom and tradition, 
is not wedded to social-contract theory, 
is not hostile to natural law or the notion of a moral order to the universe,
is not of the view that every moral obligation stems from a social act of consent,
is not anti-clerical, 
is not insouciant about virtue and blind to the exaltedness of higher things, 
is not unfaithful to the common good, 
is not reductionist and scientistic, 
is not at odds with patriotism nor even with a temperate, humane, practical sort of nationalism,
is not inclined toward a fanciful, decontextualized liberty, abstracted away from real-world institutions,
and is not unaware that liberty represents a duty as well as a right, as liberty depends, as Constant said, on civic virtue, on responsibilities fulfilled.

Understanding the distinction between voluntary and coercive behavior, a distinction rooted in our very constitution as organisms distinct from one another, Smithian liberalism understands that the governmentalization of social affairs is, by and large, destructive of cultural integrity and human vitality. Government itself is a reality to be coped with, and Smith wrote without irony of "the greatest and noblest of all characters, that of the reformer and legislator of a great state." Smith's liberal principles are presumptive only, and they would contour our best approach to sustaining virtue in modern circumstances. Those principles seek to sustain some basic social grammars, to keep the wild, spontaneous grove of social poetry relatively peaceful. Thomas Sowell always asks: Compared to what? Whatever it is that the integralists are proposing, how could it not give a central place to Smithian-liberal principles?

Those of us who try to preserve the best of classical liberalism are sometimes derided as "right liberals," indifferent to the good and complicit in a subjectivist erosion of civilized liberty. But Burke, Tocqueville, Aron, and the co-authors of this article reject radical subjectivism and affirm a 'God is watching' duty to the good of the whole, just as much as the integralists do. Truth, goodness, and virtue are indeed correspondent. But in policy and politics, the integralists tussle with strawmen, and not, say, Burke's orientation toward 'practical liberty.' 

Sohrab Ahmari is right to reaffirm the common good as a meaningful category of human and political life. But as Pope John Paul II reiterated, authentic religion aims to persuade, not coerce. It is striking how ambivalent the integralists are about religious liberty, a liberty defended as the first of our freedoms by the contemporary Catholic Church. "Common good constitutionalism" is by no means a contradiction in terms. The integralist version of the concept is vague and often evasive. It often seems more coercive than constitutionalist and forgets that in decisive respects virtue must be freely chosen. The integralist version of the concept lacks sufficient confidence in people, in their private affairs, to conduct themselves responsibly, or to learn to do so. By denying the possibility of a conservatism that includes the best liberal theory and practice, the integralists have largely left behind the conservatism that Americans rightly associate with Burke, Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, George Will, and Thomas Sowell. Are Ahmari and the others 'post-conservative' as well as 'post-liberal'? They give us ample reasons to think so.

The problem for the Left/Right is that the Anglosphere is premised on republican liberty, which requires that for laws to be legitimate they must be agreed to in a participatory fashion and applied universally. As to the former, electorates aren't much interested in their ideologies, so we refuse to adopt their favored laws, and, being Identitarian, they want laws to favor their own and punish the "other".  Given their beliefs, they are right to hate America and do. . 

August 25, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Children are the big losers from the decline of marriage (Melanie McDonagh, 10 August 2022, Spectator)

[T]he real problem with how relaxed we are about the decline of marriage is that the outcome isn't good for the most important players: the children. As the Centre for Social Justice points out in an excellent report by Sophia Worringer called 'Family Structure Still Matters', even controlling for income and education, there are very different outcomes for children born to married and cohabiting couples; let alone single mothers. It finds that family structure has a greater impact on physical and mental health, school attainment, social and emotional development, than education or income. It's the reality that we don't talk about: commitment counts, though we've yet to see the results of this government's introduction of the exciting concept of no-fault divorce.

The CSJ report points out that: 

'Family breakdown rates vary considerably between cohabiting and married parents: a child of cohabiting parents is more than twice as likely to experience parental separation. After income controls were applied, 88 per cent of married couples were still together when their child was aged five, compared to 67 per cent for cohabitees.' 

We're talking here about what you might call psychological stability or that valuable thing for a child, a sense of security.

As The Spectator established some years ago, marriage is increasingly the preserve of the middle classes. The CSJ report observes that among the top 20 per cent of couples by income, 84 per cent marry; among the bottom 20 per cent, only 45 per cent do so. That wasn't always the case; only a generation or so ago, the working classes married as much as anyone else.

At a minimum, couples who divorce should be required to repay accrued tax benefits.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


Japan just signaled a big shift in its post-Fukushima future (Anmar Frangoul, 8/24/22, CNBC)

If fully realized, the move would represent a turnaround for the country's energy policy following 2011′s Fukushima disaster, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami resulted in a meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Most of Japan's nuclear plants have remained idle since then, but attitudes appear to be shifting. Earlier this month, a former executive director of the International Energy Agency said public support in Japan for a nuclear restart now stood at over 60%.

Japan is targeting carbon neutrality by 2050.

So they'll get there by 2035.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 AM


Publisher's withdrawal of Winnetou books stirs outrage in Germany (Deutsche-Welle, 8/24/22)

The recently released 'The Young Chief Winnetou' is also criticized for romanticizing North America's genocidal colonial era

The publisher, Ravensburger Verlag, citing "lots of negative feedback" around the "romanticized" and "clichéd" depiction of Native Americans in the books, dropped the titles from its program and apologized if it had hurt anyone's feelings.

The blowback was quick, and predictable. #Winnetou has been a trending topic online since with the majority of posters furious over what German tabloid Bild, with characteristic restraint, termed the "woke hysteria" that was "burning the hero of our childhood at the stake".

Behind the online fury lies a very real, and particularly German, love affair with the Wild West, an affection that can be traced directly back to Karl May and his idealized depiction of 19th-century America.

May's characters -- the noble, heroic Winnetou and his white-skinned "blood brother" Old Shatterhand, a German immigrant land surveyor -- are as present in the German popular imagination as the figures in Grimm's Fairy Tales.

You'll find Winnetou books and records in many German households. A series of Winnetou films made during the 1960s are still staples on German TV. There are Karl May-inspired Wild West festivals and theme parks across the county where families gather to dress up as cowboys and Indians on stage sets of saloons and hitching posts. The most popular, in Bad Segeberg, attracts about 250,000 people a year.

That, for many, is the problem. Critics say May's vision of Native American culture, as a sort of prelapsarian utopia, is little more than a convenient fiction that ignores the nastier truths about the genocide of Indigenous people by white settlers.

In the broader discussion around cultural appropriation and who has the right to tell which stories, it doesn't help May's case that he was a white man writing about a culture of which he had no first-hand knowledge.

May only visited America once, after he was already a successful novelist, and didn't get further west than New York.

August 24, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the Taliban's more effective and 'fairer' tax system helped it win control of Afghanistan (Ashley Jackson, Aug. 24th, 2022, CapX)

Long before the withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban had developed a remarkably state-like system of taxing citizens on everyday goods like cigarettes and perfume. The money raised turned out to be an essential part of the Taliban's military strategy, allowing them to expand territorial control, checkpoint by checkpoint, as an integral step towards victory.

My team's recent investigation in Afghanistan found that the Taliban was arguably more effective than the former government - which had the benefit of international funding and expertise - at collecting taxes.

And while estimates of Taliban revenue are notoriously unreliable, the group is reported to have made in the region of US$40 million (£33 million) a year just from taxing opium. Collecting these taxes not only funded the war effort, but also helped to undermine the government they were seeking to overthrow.

Many of the Afghans we spoke to felt that the Taliban's taxes were fairer than those imposed by the government, which often involved bribery and complex bureaucracy. By being relatively less onerous and less corrupt, the Taliban exploited widespread Afghan frustration with government incompetence.

Local commanders determined the most effective way to extract revenue from a community, being careful not to press so hard as to provoke a backlash, while creating relationships and a quasi-social contract. All of this played an important role in the Taliban securing national control.

The Taliban's taxes on the transport of goods are a prime example. In the years leading up to 2021, the Taliban gradually instituted a relatively formal customs tax using a system of checkpoints across major roads.

Taxpayers received formal receipts emblazoned with the Taliban logo. Price lists, on "official" Taliban papers, circulated among truck drivers and business owners. There were even complaints procedures for those who felt they had been overly taxed.

The system appears to have been deliberately designed to be more user friendly than the one imposed by the government. One truck driver told us that unlike with the Taliban, he had "to pay a bribe to pay tax to the Afghan government".

All of this helped the Taliban gain legitimacy with powerful merchants and transport firms, who later played a key role in the eventual takeover.

For when Afghanistan's major border crossings and several provincial capitals fell in July 2021, many wondered why they fell so quickly and with relatively little violence. It quickly emerged that local business owners, seeing which way the war was going, were motivated to encourage a quick and orderly handover.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Juneteenth parody party' couple digs in to defend themselves  (David Andreatta, 8/23/22, Rochester City Newspaper)

While she did not refer to the account by name, even when pressed by reporters, she acknowledged that one of the profile photos used on the account was hers. The image was that of a bust of a "Smilin' Sam from Alabam' The Salted Peanut Man," a Black caricature piggy bank that Znidarsic-Nicosia said was on display in her home.

The account, which went by the handle @HoHoHomeboyROC, and operated under a variety of usernames, including "Colonel Nathaniel Sanders," had been active since November 2021 and routinely trolled Black people, elected officials, and journalists, often in a voice that mimicked Black Vernacular English.

Social media sleuths had begun attributing the account to Znidarsic-Nicosia about two weeks ago, after a Rochester firefighter announced his intention to sue the city and the Fire Department for being made to attend the gathering hosted by the Nicosias on July 7.

The firefighter, Jerrod Jones, who is Black, alleged that racist overtones permeated the party, which included a menu of Kentucky Fried Chicken, the presence of Hennessy cognac, and Juneteenth-themed signs and party favors.  He said he was taken to the party by his captain while they were on duty. The captain, Jeffrey Krywy, has since resigned.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Debts Mount with China's Prestigious Silk Road Project (Georg Fahrion, Christoph Giesen und Laura Höflinger in Beijing and Bangalore, 24.08.2022, Spiegel)

In May 2017, the Chinese leadership hosted the official launch event, the Belt and Road Forum, in Beijing. Authorities cordoned off large parts of the city center as representatives from 130 countries gathered at the National Convention Center. It was said that China intended to invest $1 trillion around the world. In his speech, Xi painted an image of a networked world. Afterwards, state guests sung their praises for the Chinese. "President Xi deserves thanks for this initiative, which is very promising and timely," Vladimir Putin said. And Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey even described it as an "initiative that will put an end to terrorism."

In truth, the initiative serves not least to salvage the Chinese economy. The growth model of the People's Republic reached its limit years ago, and to ensure that economic growth increases year after year, the state itself invests in roads, new airports and in the dense high-speed rail network. The result is a significant mountain of debt. The national railway alone has accumulated debts of almost 1 trillion euros. One important aim of the New Silk Road is to create additional markets for Chinese corporations.

According to a survey by the American Enterprise Institute, projects valued at $838 billion were underway by the end of 2021. The trillion-dollar figure targeted by Xi isn't far off. But numerous loans are at risk of default. A study by the analyst firm Rhodium Group estimates the total value of Chinese foreign loans that needed to be renegotiated in 2020 and 2021 at $52 billion. There have also been several reports about bridge loans that Chinese banks have granted to prevent payment defaults. Such emergency loans have been granted to Pakistan, Belarus, Mongolia, Argentina and Sri Lanka.

This was always the genius of the Silk Road...for the PRC's enemies.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why China's housing market is collapsingMortgage boycotts have exposed the risks building up in China's property markets over the past two decades (ZHIRONG OU, AUGUST 24, 2022, Asia Times)

The trigger for the buyers' strikes is a widespread belief among these protesters that the funds homeowners have paid in advance to the builders of these property developments have been misused.

Under the presale system, buyers deposit money in an account before the property is built. Chinese banks and local authorities are obligated to monitor developers' use of these funds. Developers are not supposed to have access to all of the money until they have hit certain pre-agreed milestones during the building process.

But buyers have recently complained that many banks -- whether or not local authorities are aware is unclear -- have been providing loans to developers before the required stage of work has been reached.

Buyers have also complained that, although these funds should have been kept in designated escrow accounts that regulators can monitor, sometimes they are not, enabling developers to evade regulations.

Overall, these buyers believe loose regulation of funds has provided some developers with both the temptation and ability to keep investing in new projects, by borrowing more before current projects are completed.

Indeed, a commonly observed pattern in China's property development industry is for developers to purchase lands, pledge them to banks to get loans, start projects, begin the presale process with buyers and then use these funds to purchase lands for other projects.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The new Ukraine is Putin's nightmareExactly six months ago, Russia launched its war against Ukraine. Now, as Ukraine marks its independence day, a new country has emerged (Roman Goncharenko, 8/24/22, Deutsche-Welle)

The Russian president launched his assault on the old Ukraine. To him, it looked like easy prey: Ukraine's economy and military were inferior to Russia's, its political sphere and society were often polarized, and support from the West was only half-hearted. Much of this was simple fact -- and yet it was still a colossal misjudgment.

Now, six months after Russia first sent troops into Ukraine, Putin is dealing with a new, nascent Ukraine. The transformation began earlier, but Russia's onslaught has accelerated this change. This new Ukraine is rapidly abandoning many of the things that long connected it to Russia: a shared language, shared street names, monuments and so on. And most importantly: This new Ukraine is learning how to defend itself. And it's learning fast.

The country is stronger militarily than ever before, and it is growing stronger still -- in part, of course, because of Western assistance, but also because of its own determination. Present-day Ukraine is more resilient than it was 100 years ago thanks to its "independence generation."

At 44, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was born in the former Soviet Union, is on the older end of this generation. But it's 20 to 30-year-old Ukrainians who form the heart of the country's resistance. They are fighting on the front lines and sacrificing their lives, helping support the armed forces in a civilian capacity or tending to internally displaced people. This generation feels truly Ukrainian; it is totally natural to them. And for this, they are willing to fight. And they will succeed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wind turbine blades can be recast into candy and nappies, says new research (Anna Pradhan, 24 August 2022, Renew Economy)

Scientists at Michigan State University say they have found a way to recycle wind turbine blades into gummy bears, nappies, and other everyday items.

The fibreglass blades of a wind turbine have provide difficult to repurpose, with many ending up in landfill at the end of their life cycle, leading to concerted efforts to find ways to recycle them.

But Michigan State scientists say they have created a new kind of turbine resin which can be continuously recast into new blades, or other materials including plastic, car taillights, kitchen countertops, and even nappies and candy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Tells His Lawyers: Get 'My' Top Secret Documents Back (ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, ADAM RAWNSLEY, AUGUST 23, 2022, Rolling Stone)

The ex-president has been demanding that his team find a way to recover "all" of the official documents that Trump has long referred to as "mine" -- including the highly sensitive and top secret ones.   

Sources close to Trump agree with outside legal experts that such a sweeping legal maneuver would be a long-shot, at best.  "I hate to break it to the [former] president, but I do not think he is going to get all [the] top-secret documents back," says one Trump adviser. "That ship has probably sailed."

Further, several longtime Trump advisers say they want absolutely nothing to do with the now-infamous boxes of documents, fearing that any knowledge of them could invite an unwanted knock on the door from the feds. "Who would want any of that back? ... If it is what they say it is, keep them the hell away," a second adviser says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rejected In Court, Trump Motion On Classified Papers Provokes Laughter (Mark Sumner, August 24 | 2022, National Memo)

The most notable aspect of Donald Trump's reaction to the FBI executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago has been the difference between what Trump has said in public, and what Trump attorneys have said in court. At rallies, in fundraising emails, and in the empty wastes of the Truth Social platform, Trump has flung spittle in all directions and accused the FBI, DOJ, National Archives, and President Biden of every form of harassment. But in court ... crickets.

Finally, on Monday evening, Trump actually followed up two weeks of threats with some action. His crack legal team marched straight to the court of a judge that Trump appointed. There, they dropped a motion for a "special master" to oversee the handling of documents seized in the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago two weeks ago and for the return of some of the documents taken.

While this move finally allows Trump to address the "Why doesn't he go to court?" question that popped up in any discussion of the FBI search, it generates a lot more questions. Like ... why is it that Donald Trump never seems capable of securing anyone competent for his legal team? Because the biggest thing that Trump's filing has generated from the legal community is laughter.

On Tuesday, the court had to tell Trump's team they needed a do-over. Because they failed to even properly file the ridiculous motion.

And another update. The court--meaning the Trump-appointed judge hearing this case--has responded again by asking Trump's legal team to answer a few questions. Questions like ... what the hell is this thing?

Trump's team has submitted a complaint without a complaint, or a basis, or a proposed standing. Or just about anything that represents an issue that can be dealt with in court. So, after two strikes, the judge is giving Trump's team a third swing at turning in something that makes sense.

August 23, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Germany and Canada sign hydrogen deal (Deutsche-Welle, 8/23/22)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed a deal on Tuesday for Germany to import green hydrogen from Canada. [...]

At a press briefing in Toronto Tuesday, Scholz said Canada was the partner of choice, as Germany moves away from Russian energy imports at "warp speed."

"Your country has almost boundless potential to become a superpower in sustainable energy and sustainable resource production," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Hard-Won Unity: Polls Show Russian Invasion Is Transforming Ukrainian Self-Identity ( Aleksander Palikot, 8/23/22, RFE)

Ahead of Ukraine's Independence Day on August 24 and six months after Russia launched its large-scale invasion of the country, opinion polls indicate growing unity on key issues among Ukrainians and a widespread unwillingness to make any territorial concessions to Moscow.

"Ukrainians are united like never before, but it's a hard-won unity" Anton Hrushetskiy, deputy director of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), told RFE/RL.

According to a poll conducted by KIIS in July, a historic 85 percent of Ukrainians identify themselves above all as citizens of Ukraine, as opposed to residents of their region, representatives of an ethnic minority, or some other identifier.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Judge orders Trump to give details about Mar-a-Lago search warrant lawsuit (Dan Mangan, 8/23/22, CNBC)

Cannon in her order Tuesday wrote: "The Court is in receipt of Plaintiff's Motion for Judicial Oversight and Additional Relief."

"To facilitate appropriate resolution, on or before August 26, 2022, Plaintiff shall file a supplement to the Motion further elaborating on the following: (1) the asserted basis for the exercise of this Court's jurisdiction, whether legal, equitable/anomalous, or both; (2) the framework applicable to the exercise of such jurisdiction;" Cannon wrote.

The judge also told Trump's team to detail "the precise relief sought, including any request for injunctive relief pending resolution of the Motion; (4) the effect, if any, of the proceeding before Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart; and (5) the status of Plaintiff's efforts to perfect service on Defendant."

She knows his "legal" team isn't capable of any of that.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Chris Wray wanted a drama-free FBI. Now, he's guiding it through threats and MAGA hate (BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, 08/23/2022, Politico)

Wray was chosen as Comey's replacement, ostensibly, to calm the waters: a head-down professional who would redirect the public focus to what the bureau was doing, rather than what was happening to it. But now, five years later, he has found himself personally targeted by MAGA world and his agents facing a surge of violent threats. If Republicans take control of the House after the midterms, his job will get even trickier.

On Aug. 8, FBI agents traveled to Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate and executed a search warrant. The former president's allies accused the FBI of turning the U.S. into a banana republic. Three days later, an armed man named Ricky Shiffer -- who was already on the FBI's radar for links to extremism, according to news reports -- tried to break into the bureau's Cincinnati field office. He fled. A stand-off ensued and police killed him.

That day, Wray sent an email to bureau employees saying their safety was his "primary concern right now." [...]

The aftermath of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant has presented a new set of highly sensitive challenges for Wray. But it's also landed him in a familiar place with now-familiar critics: House Republicans.

A House Republican aide told POLITICO that the conference views the FBI director as a big problem. The feeling flows from a broad view among Trump loyalists that Democratic partisans have weaponized law enforcement to target the right, while giving a pass to their allies. Wray runs the FBI, the aide added, which makes him -- along with Attorney General Merrick Garland -- a key focus of their grievances. If the House flips, Wray and the FBI will face further scrutiny and excoriation.

"He'll be a prime target," one House Republican aide told POLITICO.

That person said the Mar-a-Lago fallout is the biggest issue at the moment. But there are others. House Republicans are also angry that the FBI hasn't moved further in its probe of the president's son Hunter Biden. Another sleeper issue: The FBI's seizing of Rep. Scott Perry's phone. Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican linked to Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, heads the influential and very conservative House Freedom Caucus.

"You're going to see Republicans test this notion that the FBI doesn't have to talk about ongoing investigations," added the aide, who wasn't authorized to discuss the conference's plans on the record.

That test would create some political fireworks. In his 2017 confirmation hearing, Wray specifically said that he would follow DOJ policies "that govern public comments about uncharged individuals."

"I think those policies are there for a reason," he added at the time.

Should Wray refuse to divulge details in future hearings, the ball will be firmly in the House Republican leadership's court as to how to respond. Tension may be different in the Senate, however.

A Republican Senate aide said some members of the conference have specifically discussed the importance of not attacking Wray because of concerns about harming FBI agents' morale. The view is that supporting law enforcement means supporting all law enforcement -- including the FBI. And at the very least, that entails not lambasting Wray and the bureau for political points. Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, also called on Republicans last week to lay off the bureau.

Among many Senate Republicans, there's also a continued sense that Wray's approach to the job still stacks up well compared with how others might handle it. Another Republican Senate aide argued that House Republicans' long-term goals have a glaring hole: If they managed to tarnish Wray so badly that he quit or was fired, a Biden-nominated replacement wouldn't be much of a reprieve.

"We can imagine someone much worse being put in that position," the Senate aide said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Biden administration forecasts $1.03T deficit, down $400B (FATIMA HUSSEIN, 8/23/22, AP) 

The Biden administration is forecasting that this year's budget deficit will be nearly $400 billion lower than it estimated back in March, due in part to stronger than expected revenues, reduced spending, and an economy that has recovered all of the jobs lost during the multi-year pandemic.

In full, this year's deficit will decline by $1.7 trillion, representing the single largest decline in the federal deficit in American history, the Office of Management and Budget says.

The deficit, like immigration, is an aesthetic problem.  The impact of both is to make the citizenry question how effective government is. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


As Germany struggles in energy crisis, more turn to solar to help power homes (Bobby Allyn, 8/23/22, NPR)

To Berlin-based entrepreneur Karolina Attspodina, it is an especially troubling reality, as the European energy crisis revealed how much Germany needs Russia's oil and gas exports to simply function.

"I'm pretty frustrated," said Attspodina, 34, who was born in Ukraine. "And it not just me. A lot of people are. How could we get to this stage that we're so reliant on somebody else, especially Russia?"

Last year, Attspodina co-founded a company to empower Germans to rely a bit less on Russian energy: She sells solar panels that can be installed on apartment balconies and garages.

Here's how it works: The solar panels collect energy from the sun, which is then sent to a device, known as a microinverter, that is plugged into a power socket. The energy from the panels then becomes the initial source of energy for the household, ahead of power from the grid.

By the most optimistic measure, her solar panels can save residents up to 25% on their utility bills.

When Putin's forces invaded Ukraine earlier this year, her crusade against Germany's reliance on Russian oil and gas become even more personal.

"I can see my people dying over at home. I still have family and friends there," Attspodina said.

Other Germans, meanwhile, realized that the invasion meant energy prices at home would soon rise.

The war spiked sales of her solar panels by 70%, she said.

"I wish it never happened in this way, but everyone really understood in a new way that we needed to be more independent in terms of energy," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Russia's Brutal Honesty Has Destroyed the West's Appeasers: Yet plenty of Western intellectuals and politicians still ignore what Moscow is saying loud and clear. (Alexey Kovalev, 8/12/22, Foreign Policy)

[S]ix months into this brutal war, there are still plenty of Western intellectuals, politicians, journalists, and activists willfully ignoring what Russia itself is telling them again and again, loud and clear. As a Russian journalist now in exile, I find this willful ignorance of my country deeply disturbing. Some of these pundits insist that there is a "peaceful" solution--which usually translates to stopping weapons deliveries to Ukraine and leaving the country to Russian leader Vladimir Putin to pick apart--or that the conflict is about the Kremlin's "interests" or "security concerns." All the while, the evidence of Russia's actual goals and war crimes in Ukraine has become ever more overwhelming.

A considerable part of this evidence comes from Russia's own propaganda sources, including TASS news agency photographers in occupied areas where foreigners and Russian independent media are not allowed. A host of Russian state media outlets have been meticulously documenting their military's atrocities, with the footage presented to Russians and the world as an achievement and underlined with an incessant stream of genocidal rhetoric. One has to be actively and systematically avoiding reality to claim that the invasion is anything other than a horrific crime bordering on genocide--and all of it committed by choice. The war will end when Putin chooses to end it--or is forced to do so. The alternative is the destruction of Ukraine, which Putin and countless Russian public figures have unequivocally said is not a real country and doesn't deserve to exist.

Still, some Western advocates of appeasement will offer perfunctory condemnations before then spending many times more column inches on diverting the blame from Putin to the United States, the West, NATO, or all of the above. With that kind of argument, they would have enthusiastic allies in the Kremlin. On Russian airwaves, the story goes that it was the Ukrainians who forced the invasion on Russia by supposedly preparing to annihilate Ukraine's Russian-speaking minority. In psychology, this is called projection.

If, like the political scientist John Mearsheimer, your arguments are being used by Russian state television to prop up the regime's ridiculous claims that Kyiv and Washington are to blame for this war, you should probably reconsider the intellectual journey that led you to this point. If, like many of the Western leftists obsessed with the NATO war cause theory, you reject imperialism and colonialism as a matter of principle (rather than only its U.S. or British versions), you couldn't have missed the Kremlin's detailed public plans for dismantling Ukraine's sovereignty, Russia's plundering of faraway lands like Sudan to fund a war of conquest and annihilation, and the Kremlin's use of ethnic minorities as cannon fodder for the war.

If you think Ukraine has a problem with a nationalist far right, then you might have noticed the unapologetic Hitler worshippers in the ranks of the Russian forces. If, like the British Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn, you promote peace through diplomacy--appeasement-speak for stopping military aid to Ukraine and giving Putin what he wants--you should be aware by now of the realities in the Russian-occupied areas and ask yourself if this is really the fate you are willing to condemn millions of Ukrainians to. You might take it as a sign that you're on the wrong side of history--and just about anyone's understanding of ethics, including the right to self-defense--when you have to say out loud that you're not a Putin puppet.

Posted by orrinj at 2:46 PM


Inside the QAnon Queen's Cult: 'The Abuse Was Non-Stop' (Mack Lamoureux, August 23, 2022, Vice News)

As the woman he believed to be the true queen of Canada sat in a nearby RV, a man dressed in a camo shirt and hat delivered a rousing speech to the 40 people who'd come together in a Peterborough, Ontario, park, ready to arrest the city's entire police department. 

"Today we are going to turn the members of the Peterborough Police Station over to the U.S. Special Forces Military, the Canadian Military, and the Global Military Alliance who will be here to pick them up once we detain them," he said to the crowd.

With a megaphone in hand and dozens of other loyal subjects chattering excitedly behind him, he marched upon the Peterborough Police station. The group felt unstoppable. After all, they had the backing of their queen, a figure spawned from the online QAnon movement. Earlier in the week, she'd told her thousands of Telegram followers that the cops needed to pay for their crimes: enforcing COVID restrictions and infringing on their freedom.

But the station's locked door promptly thwarted their quest for justice. They pleaded with the police through the megaphone to come outside to be arrested. When that didn't work, they made their way behind the station, where they once again yelled at closed doors.

Then a car of officers pulled into the parking lot for a shift change, and the group's leader made his move. "You guys are involved in the COVID crimes, and I'm placing you under arrest," he said. 

"Actually, you are," a nearby cop responded.

A melee quickly broke out. As two cops grabbed the first conspiracy theorist and threw him to the ground, another follower tackled some of the officers. Through sobs and screams, the crowd started chanting "Stand down."

In the end, three people would be arrested, two of whom were charged with assaulting a police officer. The day marked a clear escalation for the so-called queen and her followers,  who had never resorted to violence for their sovereign before. 

The "queen" in question, Romana Didulo, is an internet personality who claims to be the one, true leader of Canada, waging a secret war against a cabal of pedophilic elites. But her mythos has moved far beyond typical QAnon musings and into the truly bizarre. She now claims to be an extraterrestrial spiritual leader with access to secret, New Age healing technology. She also routinely threatens to execute her enemies--as well as anyone who disobeys her. Yet to her followers, she's the ultimate defender of the weak, a harbinger of a better age. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Saudi Arabia to build the world's largest wind farm in Uzbekistan (MEMO, 8/23/22)

According to the report, Saudi Arabia is preparing to pay $12 billion for chronic energy shortages.

The agreements include a pledge for Saudi firm, ACWA Power, to build a 1.5 GW wind farm in Karakalpakstan.

Uzbekistan's Energy Ministry says it will be the world's largest, and will power 1.65 million homes, the report says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


Whitmer praises verdict, says there's no room for threats (JOEY CAPPELLETTI and ED WHITE, 8/23/22, AP)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is praising the guilty verdicts against two men who plotted to kidnap her in 2020 and warning that violent threats "have no place in our politics."

Whitmer says threats against officials are a "disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism" and undermine democracy.

Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were convicted of all charges Tuesday in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

They were accused of scheming to kidnap the Democratic governor and ignite a civil war near the 2020 presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Religious Zionism to choose between far-right, farther-right in inaugural primary (CARRIE KELLER-LYNN , 8/23/22, Times of Israel)

About a third of Yamina's voters identify as religious Zionists, but many have been skittish about aligning with the eponymous party because of its hardline views on non-Jews and Palestinians, as well as the associations of some on its slate with racist ultranationalist movements.

The central contest among the 16 candidates for the party's Knesset slate is between hardliners and slightly more liberal members. Still, all of the party's politicians are solidly right-wing, pro-settlement and against aligning with Arab parties.

No one hates just Mexicans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Network trials solid-state hydrogen storage in 100 pct renewable stand-alone power system (Sophie Vorrath, 8/23/22, One Step Off the Grid)

A 100 per cent renewable stand-alone power system made up of solar PV and an innovative hydrogen storage solution is being trialled on the fringes of the Essential Energy grid, after being installed by Tempo Australia.

Tempo said on Monday that it had been awarded "Practical Completion" on the Stand-Alone Power Supply (SAPS), that includes the company's greenHy2 system based on GKN hydrogen storage technology.

The heart of the system, installed in a remote location a three-hour drive north of Sydney, is solid-state metal hydride hydrogen storage that can store almost half a megawatt-hour of electricity and more than 40 days of forecast storage for the facility.

Essential Energy began investigating the use of SAPS - usually solar with battery storage and back-up diesel - on its New South Wales and south Queensland grid back in 2018, and then ramped up the process after the Black Summer of bushfires in 2019-20.

Originally, the distribution network company looked into SAPS as a way to provide temporary power while restoring poles and wires, but these days they are seen as a long-term off-grid power solution for customers whose properties are located on long powerlines, at the grid's edge.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


May 10, 2022
Evan Corcoran Silverman Thompson 400 East Pratt Street Suite 900
Baltimore, MD 21202 By Email

Dear Mr. Corcoran:
I write in response to your letters of April 29, 2022, and May 1, 2022, requesting that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) further delay the disclosure to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the records that were the subject of our April 12, 2022 notification to an authorized representative of former President Trump.

As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President's representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022. In its initial review of materials within those boxes, NARA identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials. NARA informed the Department of Justice about that discovery, which prompted the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them. On April 11, 2022, the White House Counsel's Office--affirming a request from the Department of Justice supported by an FBI letterhead memorandum--formally transmitted a request that NARA provide the FBI access to the 15 boxes for its review within seven days, with the possibility that the FBI might request copies of specific documents following its review of the boxes.

Although the Presidential Records Act (PRA) generally restricts access to Presidential records in NARA's custody for several years after the conclusion of a President's tenure in office, the statute further provides that, "subject to any rights, defenses, or privileges which the United States or any agency or person may invoke," such records "shall be made available . . . to an incumbent President if such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of current business of the incumbent President's office and that is not otherwise available." 44 U.S.C. §

 2205(2)(B). Those conditions are satisfied here. As the Department of Justice's National Security Division explained to you on April 29, 2022:
There are important national security interests in the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community getting access to these materials. According to NARA, among the materials in the boxes are over 100 documents with classification markings, comprising more than 700 pages. Some include the highest levels of classification, including Special Access Program (SAP) materials. Access to the materials is not only necessary for purposes of our ongoing criminal investigation, but the Executive Branch must also conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps. Accordingly, we are seeking immediate access to these materials so as to facilitate the necessary assessments that need to be conducted within the Executive Branch.

We advised you in writing on April 12 that, "in light of the urgency of this request," we planned to "provid[e] access to the FBI next week," i.e., the week of April 18. See Exec. Order No. 13,489, § 2(b), 74 Fed. Reg. 4,669 (Jan. 21, 2009) (providing a 30-day default before disclosure but authorizing the Archivist to specify "a shorter period of time" if "required under the circumstances"); accord 36 C.F.R. § 1270.44(g) ("The Archivist may adjust any time period or deadline under this subpart, as appropriate, to accommodate records requested under this section."). In response to a request from another representative of the former President, the White House Counsel's Office acquiesced in an extension of the production date to April 29, and so advised NARA. In accord with that agreement, we had not yet provided the FBI with access to the records when we received your letter on April 29, and we have continued to refrain from providing such access to date.

It has now been four weeks since we first informed you of our intent to provide the FBI access to the boxes so that it and others in the Intelligence Community can conduct their reviews. Notwithstanding the urgency conveyed by the Department of Justice and the reasonable extension afforded to the former President, your April 29 letter asks for additional time for you to review the materials in the boxes "in order to ascertain whether any specific document is subject to privilege," and then to consult with the former President "so that he may personally make any decision to assert a claim of constitutionally based privilege." Your April 29 letter further states that in the event we do not afford you further time to review the records before NARA discloses them in response to the request, we should consider your letter to be "a protective assertion of executive privilege made by counsel for the former President."
The Counsel to the President has informed me that, in light of the particular circumstances presented here, President Biden defers to my determination, in consultation with the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, regarding whether or not I should uphold the former President's purported "protective assertion of executive privilege." See 36 C.F.R. § 1270.44(f)(3). Accordingly, I have consulted with the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel to inform my "determination as to whether to honor the former President's claim of privilege or instead to disclose the Presidential records notwithstanding the claim of privilege." Exec. Order No. 13,489, § 4(a).

 The Assistant Attorney General has advised me that there is no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter from obtaining from NARA Presidential records belonging to the Federal Government where "such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of current business of the incumbent President's office and that is not otherwise available." 44 U.S.C. § 2205(2)(B).

To the contrary, the Supreme Court's decision in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), strongly suggests that a former President may not successfully assert executive privilege "against the very Executive Branch in whose name the privilege is invoked." Id. at 447-48. In Nixon v. GSA, the Court rejected former President Nixon's argument that a statute requiring that Presidential records from his term in office be maintained in the custody of, and screened by, NARA's predecessor agency--a "very limited intrusion by personnel in the Executive Branch sensitive to executive concerns"--would "impermissibly interfere with candid communication of views by Presidential advisers." Id. at 451; see also id. at 455 (rejecting the claim). The Court specifically noted that an "incumbent President should not be dependent on happenstance or the whim of a prior President when he seeks access to records of past decisions that define or channel current governmental obligations." Id. at 452; see also id. at 441-46 (emphasizing, in the course of rejecting a separation-of-powers challenge to a provision of a federal statute governing the disposition of former President Nixon's tape recordings, papers, and other historical materials "within the Executive Branch," where the "employees of that branch [would] have access to the materials only 'for lawful Government use,'" that "[t]he Executive Branch remains in full control of the Presidential materials, and the Act facially is designed to ensure that the materials can be released only when release is not barred by some applicable privilege inherent in that branch"; and concluding that "nothing contained in the Act renders it unduly disruptive of the Executive Branch").

It is not necessary that I decide whether there might be any circumstances in which a former President could successfully assert a claim of executive privilege to prevent an Executive Branch agency from having access to Presidential records for the performance of valid executive functions. The question in this case is not a close one. The Executive Branch here is seeking access to records belonging to, and in the custody of, the Federal Government itself, not only in order to investigate whether those records were handled in an unlawful manner but also, as the National Security Division explained, to "conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps." These reviews will be conducted by current government personnel who, like the archival officials in Nixon v. GSA, are "sensitive to executive concerns." Id. at 451. And on the other side of the balance, there is no reason to believe such reviews could "adversely affect the ability of future Presidents to obtain the candid advice necessary for effective decisionmaking." Id. at 450. To the contrary: Ensuring that classified information is appropriately protected, and taking any necessary remedial action if it was not, are steps essential to preserving the ability of future Presidents to "receive the full and frank submissions of facts and opinions upon which effective discharge of [their] duties depends." Id. at 449.

Because an assertion of executive privilege against the incumbent President under these circumstances would not be viable, it follows that there is no basis for the former President to make a "protective assertion of executive privilege," which the Assistant Attorney General informs me has never been made outside the context of a congressional demand for information from the Executive Branch. Even assuming for the sake of argument that a former President may under some circumstances make such a "protective assertion of executive privilege" to preclude the Archivist from complying with a disclosure otherwise prescribed by 44 U.S.C. § 2205(2), there is no predicate for such a "protective" assertion here, where there is no realistic basis that the requested delay would result in a viable assertion of executive privilege against the incumbent President that would prevent disclosure of records for the purposes of the reviews described above. Accordingly, the only end that would be served by upholding the "protective" assertion here would be to delay those very important reviews.

I have therefore decided not to honor the former President's "protective" claim of privilege. See Exec. Order No. 13,489, § 4(a); see also 36 C.F.R. 1270.44(f)(3) (providing that unless the incumbent President "uphold[s]" the claim asserted by the former President, "the Archivist discloses the Presidential record"). For the same reasons, I have concluded that there is no reason to grant your request for a further delay before the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community begin their reviews. Accordingly, NARA will provide the FBI access to the records in question , as requested by the incumbent President, beginning as early as Thursday, May 12, 2022.

Please note that, in accordance with the PRA, 44 U.S.C. § 2205(3), the former President's designated representatives can review the records, subject to obtaining the appropriate level of security clearance. Please contact my General Counsel, Gary M. Stern, if you would like to discuss the details of such a review, such as you proposed in your letter of May 5, 2022, particularly with respect to any unclassified materials.

Acting Archivist of the United States

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

IT'S A rico CASE:

ICE officials under Trump told to wipe phones when leaving agency (Geneva Sands, 8/22/22,  CNN)

The phones of several top Trump-era Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were deactivated when they left their positions and the data contained on them likely wiped, a court filing released late last week shows.

The revelation came in a public records dispute between ICE and watchdog group American Oversight, which has sought emails and text messages from former acting ICE directors Thomas Homan, Matthew Albence and Ronald Vitiello in a controversial immigration-related case. It follows recent controversies over wiped government phones and erased text messages, including the potential loss of information relevant to investigations into the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Against expectations, global food prices have tumbled (The Economist, 8/22/22)

Six months after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, an inflationary shock is still ripping through boardrooms, finance ministries and households, with European natural-gas prices surging again on August 22nd owing to fears of further disruptions to supply from Russia. But in one crucial area, prices have come back to Earth. The cost of grains, cereals and oils, staples of diets around the world, have returned to levels last seen before the war began.

August 22, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


J.D. Vance, the Apostle of Appalachia, Embraces His Inner Troll: It is a triumph of hope over reality to believe he'll rediscover his decency after a Senate victory (Bonnie Kristian, 8/22/22, The UnPopulist)

[Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky]  like Vance, grew up in Appalachia, albeit in apparently more middle-class circumstances. Also like Vance, he came to Congress comparatively young (41 to Vance's 37) and after achieving rare academic and business success; Massie has a master's from MIT and a successful tech startup.

More important than those biographical similarities, however, is that Massie entered national politics as "the real deal" of a different philosophical strain. Early in his tenure, he stood out in the GOP caucus for breaking with his own party's leadership and fastidiously voting against legislation he deemed unconstitutional or unaffordable. He won re-election in the next race and the next, seemingly lucky to have a district with an unusual love of liberty.

Then Trump arrived, and Massie had a moment of dismal clarity. He'd been on the campaign trail in Kentucky and Iowa in 2016, he told the Washington Examiner a year later, and found supposedly "libertarian" voters all going for the very unlibertarian Trump. "All this time, I thought [my supporters] were voting for libertarian Republicans," Massie said. "But after some soul searching, I realized when they voted for [Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)] and [former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)] and me in these primaries, they weren't voting for libertarian ideas--they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along."

At that crossroads, Massie, it appears, decided to keep courting these voters with a taste for the "craziest son of a bitch." He started maintaining an increasingly inflammatory Twitter presence, allying with the likes of QAnon enthusiast Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican, and feeding the maw of the culture war even though it sometimes put him in conflict with his libertarian ideals.  

Vance too is the child of Appalachia where he had a chaotic childhood as detailed in his bestselling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. He then went to the Marine Corps. And to Massie's MIT he went to Yale law. From there he became a venture capitalist and gained fame as a NeverTrump conservative who actually called Trump "America's Hitler." Then, just as stunningly as with Massie, he dramatically reversed course--and did it so convincingly that he landed an endorsement from the famously unforgiving Trump.

Vance might have arrived at the crossroads at a different point in his political career than Massie, but he made the same choice. After warning "[f]ellow Christians" that "everyone is watching us when we apologize for" the "reprehensible" "cultural heroin" that is Trump, Vance learned to "suck it up and support him"--or, at least, to act as if he does in public. Vance explained his transformation at the Dallas CPAC earlier this month by telling the attendees that, as he mentioned on Fox News, his shift was inspired by the ex-president's record in office. "[I]t's actually refreshing for a person who's running for political office to not try to hide or pretend they didn't say something," Vance said. The only problem is that Vance's 2016 opposition to Trump was always about matters of character, not policy, and Trump's character did not change.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Egypt: Sisi supporters offended by opinion article predicting fall of Middle East regimes (Middle East Eye, 22 August 2022)

An article outlining reasons for the fall of authoritarian regimes, written by a prominent supporter of the Egyptian government, has triggered widespread reactions from officials and media personalities affiliated with the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.  [...]

In 2013, Adeeb supported Sisi's coup d'etat against the elected government of Mohamed Morsi. However, in recent years he has warned of civil unrest in Egypt if corruption was not tackled and the economy kept deteriorating. 

Adeeb, who currently lives in Abu Dhabi, wrote in the article titled "14 reasons for the fall of rulers and regimes," that corruption, lack of interest in people's public good, ruling by whim, and favouring family members in government positions were part of the recipe for instability of regimes in the Middle East and the fall of leaders.

"I fear greatly for our regimes and peoples from now until the middle of next year, when the livelihood, poor services and the impossibility of daily life will become the fuel of devastating social unrest," Adeeb wrote.

Although Adeeb did not mention the government of Egypt or President Sisi, his article was interpreted as an analysis of Egypt's political and economic situation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


The Trump Mar-a-Lago search was justified (Bradley P. Moss, 8/22/22, Fox News)

 What happened on August 8, 2022, was not tyranny. It was not political persecution. It was not a minor dust up over bureaucratic processes blown out of proportion. It was the criminal justice system operating just like it does with any other private citizen on any other given day ending in a "y."

Trump was the president and commander-in-chief up until noon on January 20, 2021. The moment Joe Biden took the Oath of Office, Trump became just another private citizen in his 70s who vacations in Florida during the winter months to avoid the bitter cold back in his native home in the Northeast. He was no longer shielded by any privileges or protections of the Office of the Presidency at the point beyond physical security protection. He is subject to the laws of the United States just like anyone else.

What also is true is that Trump had particular legal obligation as the former president to properly turn over presidential records to the National Archives and Records Administration. That is mandated by the Presidential Records Act because those records are the property of the United States. They are not Trump's personal property.

Justice Department likely to 'over-redact' Trump Mar-a-Lago affidavit: John YooVideo
In a competent White House, this process would have started within days of his election loss and would have been completed well in advance of his departure for Florida on January 20, 2021. It was not. 

Trump spent his final two months desperately trying in the courts, and later through state legislatures and ultimately the January 6, 2021 rally, to reverse his election loss. Document archival was not high on his priority list.

The result was apparently more than 25 boxes' worth of presidential records were shipped to Florida and stored in a basement at Mar-a-Lago. If this were a mere issue of simply recovering unclassified presidential records, though, there likely never would have been a criminal element to this matter. But buried into those boxes were countless properly marked classified documents. Those documents lacked any markings indicating that Trump had ever declassified them. No actual substantiated evidence indicates Mr. Trump ever declassified them. No one viewing those records would have any reason to view them as anything other than properly classified documents. 

The government tried to recover the documents peacefully and quietly. They spent one year discussing the matter with Trump's staff, and 15 boxes were sent back to NARA in February. 

After identifying more missing records, the government returned in June with a subpoena and found more boxes of records that should have been returned. Both times, properly marked classified documents - up to and including documents marked as Top Secret and requiring Sensitive Compartmented Information access eligibility - were located within the boxes. 

A Trump lawyer swore out an affidavit promising there were no more documents. The government gathered evidence that the Trump lawyer was not being truthful, and on August 8, 2022, a court-authorized search warrant was executed that, sure enough, located several more classified documents. 

That is not an abuse of law enforcement processes. That is how the law works. 

The Right just hates having the laws applied to them as it is to the "others".

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


The Death of DuginaWhat we know (and don't yet know) about the killing of the war propagandist daughter of the ultranationalist Russian Aleksandr Dugin. (CATHY YOUNG  AUGUST 22, 2022, The Bulwark)

[B]y the end of the decade, Dugina was fully her father's daughter (despite using the pseudonym Darya Platonova, presumably derived from her interest in Plato). In a 2021 YouTube interview, she declared that it was "a great honor to be the daughter of such a man" and that she was "proudly carrying the banner of being a daughter." In addition to serving as Dugin's press secretary, she was a hardcore activist in his "Eurasia movement" and a speaker at its events, as well as a writer for pro-government outlets and a pundit with regular appearances on Kremlin-controlled broadcast media.

Having once described Ukraine on Russian television as a "cordon sanitaire" separating Russia from Europe, Dugina enthusiastically embraced Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. On her Telegram channel, she wrote:

Last night I was walking along a deserted Moscow street, and far away a Russian flag was billowing on a building. And a quiet rustle: the Russians are coming. Woman's intuition is a powerful thing. For some reason, this quiet and this flag caught my attention. A slogan in my head: "Empire, be!" I woke up, and there was empire.

In mid-June, Dugina went to Mariupol to tour the Azovstal plant where the city's Ukrainian defenders took their last stand. On her return, she enthused in a post on VKontakte, the Russian analogue of Facebook:

For me, Novorossiya [i.e., Eastern Ukraine] is a space of philosophical meaning. It is Russia's empire-forming space, and it is thanks to this frontier horizon that we exist as Russia: What's more, an unvanquished Russia, a Russia risen against the totalitarian liberalism that is being imposed all over the world. . . . It is there that the right attitudes toward life and death, toward self and other, have been constructed; it is there that the meanings of our empire are being formed. . . . One must go to Novorossiya to learn what life is, to learn how one should live, to learn what the breath of empire is and what empire is. . . . It is created to awaken us.

In an appearance on Russia's state-controlled Channel One, Dugina asserted with a straight face that what Russia was actually doing in Mariupol was "trying to reclaim the peaceful population from death." It turns out, however, that she wasn't talking about literal death: "Death is the loss of community," she explained, with a reference to the nineteenth-century German Romantic poet Novalis. "In Ukraine, this community, this unity of the people, was lost; a whole bunch of groups appeared with an aggressive ideology, with absolute Russophobia." What Novorossiya really needs, she concluded, is "the introduction of ideology." Oh, and tribunals for the "Nazis" and "non-humans" fighting for the Ukrainian side.

On other occasions, Dugina claimed that the killings in Bucha were staged in order to "convince the Western public of the Russians' bloody crimes" and that Bucha was chosen for this purpose because of its name's similarity to the word "butcher" in order to implant the trope of Putin as a butcher in people's minds.

On the very last day of her life, Dugina appeared on an online propaganda show to claim that the "special operation" in Ukraine was the "final nail in the coffin" of Western "liberal totalitarianism"...

The best way to undermine Vlad is to spread conflicting stories that it was Ukraine, the US, Chechen separatists, etc. Confusion to the enemy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Europe's Plan to Wean Itself off Russian Gas Just Might Work (Matt Reynolds, 8/18/22, Wired)

Natural gas is used in three primary ways: for generating electricity in power plants, for heating homes and offices, and in industries like steelmaking and fertilizer manufacture. Although there are alternatives to gas in power plants--German chancellor Olaf Scholz has raised the possibility of extending the life of nuclear power plants in order to cut down gas usage--it's much harder to find alternatives to gas for industry and heating. The EU also has rules that protect households, hospitals, schools, and other essential services from gas-rationing measures.

About a quarter of natural gas in the EU goes to industry--which means that sector may well have to shoulder a large part of the burden of gas reduction, says Chi Kong Chyong, a research associate at the University of Cambridge. The EU is encouraging companies to switch to other forms of fuel, and it has asked member states to draw up lists of which businesses should be asked to stop production in the event of sudden gas shortages. German steelmarker ThyssenKrupp has said it could cope with restricted production, but warns that it may face shutdowns or damage in the event of a gas shortage. The chemical firm BASF has said it will slow down fertilizer production in response to high gas prices.

"The really urgent and tricky thing is heating," says Gladkykh. About half of German homes are heated by gas, accounting for about one-third of all the country's gas consumption. Because consumers are protected from gas rationing by law, the German government is limited in what it can do to limit gas consumption in homes. But advisers to German climate and economic minister Robert Habeck say that high gas prices will likely cause households to reduce their usage anyway. In other words, people will turn their heating down simply because they can't afford to keep it on.

While the EU is trying to curb gas usage, it's also frantically trying to fill up its gas reserves before winter hits. It has set a target of refilling storage to 80 percent of capacity by November 1, which it is on target to reach, although at a cost 10 times higher than the historical average. All of this means that the EU should be able to weather a winter of tight gas supplies, but in the long run it will need to find a way to reduce its reliance on Russian gas altogether.

Even if a cease-fire in Ukraine is negotiated, it's unlikely that the EU will go back to sourcing so much of its gas from Russia. "It's difficult to imagine that we'd be going back to the situation that we had prior to the invasion in Ukraine," says Chyong. To plug these future gaps, the EU and its member states are negotiating new gas supply deals with Azerbaijan and Italy as well as increasing capacity to receive shipments of liquified natural gas from the US and Qatar. But these aren't quick fixes--it will take years to ramp up gas supply from new countries.

In May the European Commission published its plan to end the EU's dependence on Russian fossil fuels. The €210 billion ($213 billion) plan calls for a huge scaling-up of renewable energy generation, including a scheme to double installed solar panel capacity in the EU by 2025 and a doubling of the rate of heat pump installation. The EU currently has a target to produce 40 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, but the commission is proposing to increase that target to 45 percent. The plan also includes support for industries to replace gas with hydrogen, biogas, and biomethane to further reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

"This crisis is a time when we ought to be doubling down on our transition to low-carbon energy," says Jim Watson, professor of energy policy at University College London.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The barely hidden fascism of Ron DeSantis makes a Pa. pit stop on a race to '24 (Will Bunch, Aug. 21st, 2022, Philadelphia Inquirer)

In heavily Democratic Fort Lauderdale, the 5′9″ DeSantis -- the modern fulfillment of the Jimmy Breslin-ism about a small man in search of a balcony -- elevated himself on a podium, flanked as he so often is by armed and uniformed men and women of law enforcement, to highlight his crackdown on supposed voter fraud ahead of November's election.

"That is against the law, and now they're gonna pay the price for it," DeSantis declared of 20 Floridians -- almost all from Democratic strongholds such as Broward County, where his campaign-rally-style announcement was staged, or Miami-Dade -- accused of casting ballots despite a law barring them because they'd been convicted of murder or sexual assault.

But the event and its stench of "law and order" intimidation revealed so much more through what was left unsaid. Such as the fact that DeSantis' Office of Election Crimes and Security -- like so much that the Florida governor does, a dangerous escalation of the GOP's long-running war on voting rights into straight-up authoritarian territory -- has spent $3.9 million in taxpayer dollars to find alleged fraud in less than 0.0002% of the 11 million votes cast in the Sunshine State. The outlay is about $195,000 for each allegation.

But arguably more outrageous is the way that Team DeSantis is less exposing a systematic problem -- actual voting fraud in America is extremely rare -- but rather taking cynical advantage of several years of confusion in Florida over its laws regarding whether people convicted of crimes can vote. In 2018, the state's voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum allowing most felons who'd served their time to vote, only for GOP lawmakers to muddy the waters by imposing new requirements for restitution. It's now apparent there was widespread confusion -- not just among citizens, but from government officials -- over who could vote in 2020.

Indeed, Florida journalists who dug into the 20 criminal cases found a scenario rooted in benign confusion, not malicious fraud. In Orange County, Fla., the three people charged with third-degree felonies -- punishable up to five years in prison -- said they mistakenly believed their rights had been restored in the 2018 vote, and one man said he'd simply been sent a ballot in the mail and returned it. Nathan Hart, 49, told the Miami Herald he was renewing his driver's license when a man at a voter registration booth convinced him, mistakenly, he was eligible to vote. "One individual guy voting when he thought he could is hardly voter fraud," said Hart, now terrified of losing the life he'd rebuilt after his incarceration.

The resentment industry. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rudy Giuliani Offers New Excuse For Trump Seizing Classified Files (Chibueze Godwin, August 22 | 2022, National Memo)

Rudy Giuliani, ex-New York City mayor and personal attorney to former President Trump, introduced a new line of reasoning to the trove of Trumpworld excuses for Trump's alleged possession of classified material -- he was "protecting" them at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

In an appearance on the far-right channel Newsmax, Giuliani admitted that Trump possessed classified documents and was doing the government a solid by "preserving them."

"And now, they want to make [Trump] responsible for having taken classified documents and preserve [sic] them."

Appearing to realize the gaffe, Giuliani paused briefly and went on...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Australian bank to scrap loans for new diesel and gasoline cars as country looks to increase EV uptake (Anmar Frangoul, 8/21/22, CNBC)

An Australian bank plans to stop giving loans for new diesel and gasoline cars as the country tries to encourage the use of electric vehicles and catch up with other developed countries.

In a statement Friday, Bank Australia said it would scrap loans for new fossil fuel vehicles from 2025. Sasha Courville, its chief impact officer, said that date had been picked "because the change to electric vehicles needs to happen quickly."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Rise of Hindu Nationalism in India : a review of Jugalbandi
by Vinay Sitapati (Sadanand Dhume, Law & Liberty)

The most important ideologue of Hindu nationalism, Vinayak Savarkar (1883-1966), was a beef-eating Brahmin atheist who was educated in England and later jailed by the colonial authorities for his role in the assassination of a senior British official in London. Savarkar believed that India had succumbed to foreign invaders--first Muslims, then the British--for one main reason: a lack of unity in the majority Hindu community, divided into roughly 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, and speaking a Babel of dozens of languages and thousands of dialects, many of them mutually unintelligible.

Savarkar viewed India as an essentially Hindu nation, and Muslims and Christians as members of a kind of fifth column. They could not be fully trusted because their holy lands--Mecca, Rome, and Jerusalem--lay outside the Indian subcontinent. This contrasted sharply with mainstream Indian nationalism, spearheaded by Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) and the Indian National Congress, which strove to unite Indians of all faiths against colonial rule. "Those who are conscious of the spirit of nationality do not interfere with one another's religion," wrote Gandhi in Hind Swaraj in 1909. "If the Hindus believe that India should be peopled only by Hindus, they are living in dream-land."

The 1920s, when Savarkar propounded his thesis, were a period of political turmoil. World War One and the devastating Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 had eroded British prestige and boosted Indian nationalism. The emergence of Gandhi on the political scene injected mass-mobilization into the independence movement. At the same time, the frequent eruption of Hindu-Muslim riots widened the appeal of religious nationalism in both communities. In several instances, most famously the Moplah rebellion in today's Kerala in 1921-22, Hindus bore the brunt of the violence. As Sitapati puts it, Hindu nationalism was birthed "in part by the fear of effete Hindus being beaten up by tough Muslims on the street."

In 1925, influenced by Savarkar's writings, K. B. Hedgewar, a fellow Maharashtrian Brahmin, founded the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or "National Volunteer Corps," the mothership of Hindu nationalism. Its aim: to unify India's disparate Hindus. Three years later, the RSS swore in its first 99 volunteers before an effigy of the monkey God Hanuman. It modeled its basic organizational unit, the shakha, on a traditional Hindu gymnasium used to train wrestlers. A shakha typically consists of 50-100 males instructed in self-defense and indoctrinated with the group's distinctive worldview. By the late 1930s, the RSS counted about 60,000 volunteers.

Like two other vast organizations formed in the 1920s, the Chinese Communist Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, the RSS continues to exert influence to this day. Though its record-keeping is sketchy, it claims to be the world's largest NGO with 5 million volunteers. (Independent scholars estimate that number as closer to 2 million.) About 6000 of these are pracharaks, or preceptors, typically unmarried men steeped in RSS ideology who dedicate their lives to the organization. Over the years, the RSS has also stood up dozens of affiliated organizations, including India's largest labor union (Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh), largest student union (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), and the World Hindu Council (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), an attempt to unite ecclesiastical authority under a loose "Hindu Vatican." Together these organizations are known as the Sangh Parivar, or Sangh family.

The BJP, the most prominent RSS offshoot, was born in 1980. But the Sangh Parivar's direct involvement in electoral politics dates to newly-independent India. In 1951, it helped found the BJP's predecessor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

The RSS and the BJP share a worldview rooted in a Savarkarite reading of Indian history as "plagued by a lack of unity that rendered it vulnerable to invasions." They focus especially on a pivotal battle in 1761 outside Delhi in which the Hindu Marathas, who had risen in the mid-seventeenth century to challenge the Muslim Mughal Empire, lost to an Afghan marauder. The defeat weakened Maratha power and eased the way for the British conquest of India.

Western commentators sometimes label the RSS as conservative. But in a caste-bound land, its founding marked a radical break from the past. From the start, it viewed its role as unifying Hindus across caste lines against what it saw as the threat of better-organized Muslims prone to violence. The RSS espouses what Sitapati calls "defensive violence." In the organization's view of itself, it retaliates against violence, but does not initiate it. Many scholars dispute this characterization.

In politics, Hindu nationalists have long focused on three core concerns: the importance of maintaining an overwhelming Hindu majority in India, the threat to the nation's "sacred territory" posed by Pakistan and China, and opposition to any differential political rights for religious minorities, such as the autonomy once enjoyed by the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, and separate sharia-based civil laws for Muslims. At the same time, Sitapati points out that from the start the RSS had no principled objection to democracy. Universal suffrage advantaged the more numerous Hindus over Muslims.

Only the favored Identity ever changes. 

August 21, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM


As attacks mount in Crimea, Kremlin faces rising domestic pressures (Anton Troianovski, Marc Santora and Dan Bilefsky 8/21/22, New York Times)

[A]s Ukrainian attacks mount in the strategically and symbolically important territory, the damage is beginning to put domestic political pressure on the Kremlin, with criticism and debate about the war increasingly being unleashed on social media and underscoring that even what the Russian government considers to be Russian territory is not safe.

On Saturday, a drone slammed into the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, sending a plume of smoke over the port city of Sevastopol. Separately, in western Crimea, Russian troops launched anti-aircraft fire at unidentified targets, the region's Russian governor said.

Local Russian officials blamed the drone attack on Ukraine and urged residents and beachgoers not to panic, while insisting there had been no injuries and that Russian air defenses were functioning properly.

But as images of anti-aircraft fire streaking through the blue Crimean sky ricocheted through social media, the visceral reality of war was becoming more and more apparent to Russians -- many of whom have rallied behind the Kremlin's line, hammered home in state media, that the "special military operation" to save Ukraine from Nazi domination is going smoothly and according to plan.

"People are beginning to feel that the war is coming to them," Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization close to the Russian government, said in a phone interview. "I think this is serious."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump in 'Really Dangerous Territory,' Maybe Committed 'Treason': Kirschner (JASON LEMON, 8/20/22, Newsweek)

"This is some really dangerous territory for Donald Trump," Kirschner said, who also reminded viewers that the ex-president "launched an armed attack on the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power."

"Let's not forget about that little crime that may actually amount to treason," he added.

Trump's team last Friday evening released a statement saying that the former president had a "standing order" to declassify documents. Trump also said on his Truth Social platform that the materials at Mar-a-Lago were "declassified." However, two of Trump's former chiefs of staff, John Kelly and Mick Mulvaney, told CNN for a Thursday article that there was no such order in place when they worked as his top aide.

"Nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given," Kelly said. "And I can't imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it."

Sir, you were no portrait in courage when you were serving the corrupt Nativist. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


UN: US buying big Ukraine grain shipment for hungry regions (CARA ANNA, /20/22,  The Associated Press)

The United States is stepping up to buy about 150,000 metric tons of grain from Ukraine in the next few weeks for an upcoming shipment of food aid from ports no longer blockaded by war, the World Food Program chief has told The Associated Press.

The final destinations for the grain are not confirmed and discussions continue, David Beasley said. But the planned shipment, one of several the U.N. agency that fights hunger is pursuing, is more than six times the amount of grain that the first WFP-arranged ship from Ukraine is now carrying toward people in the Horn of Africa at risk of starvation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hugo Chavez and Socialism Get Erased From the Caracas Skyline: Ads for jeans and makeup replace Socialist symbols (Fabiola Zerpa and Ezra Fieser, August 17, 2022, Bloomberg)

An image of Hugo Chavez's eyes used to peer down on Venezuela from seemingly everywhere: the rooftops of government offices, housing developments, even the scanners at airport customs.

Today, Venezuelans are more likely to find an advertisement for makeup or jeans than a tribute to the country's revolutionary icon. 

President Nicolas Maduro's shift from socialism to a more capitalist approach, a key tenet of his bid to halt a years-long economic collapse, is showing up in many forms, from the widespread use of US dollars to the imported, gourmet foods filling store shelves. But few are as noticeable as the makeover taking place in public spaces once littered with Chavista propaganda.

Gone -- or, at least, disappearing rapidly -- are many of the formerly ubiquitous odes to "revolution," such as the Orwellian depictions of Chavez's eyes, slogans slapped on billboards with some version of the message "socialism or death," or huge murals of Fidel Castro and Simon Bolivar. Most of those that remain are badly faded. Instead, city highways are crowded with billboards advertising cosmetics, food and new clothing brands. 

"Political ideology has been replaced by a drive for consumption," said Jose Carvajal, director of Ciudad Laboratorio, an urban studies think tank in Caracas. Socialist iconic billboards promoting the idea that Venezuela "belonged to everyone,'' he said, have given way to a Dubai- or Miami-style landscape, with rows of palm trees along its main highway. In many ways, it marks something of a return to the pre-Chavez era, when multinationals hawked products of all stripes on billboards across Caracas. "Now Venezuela, like never before, belongs to a few who can succeed."

You can run, but you can't hide, from the End of History.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cicero's Fragile Trinity: The Roman philosopher's fragile trinity of natural law, popular sovereignty, and liberty represents a pinnacle of classical republican thought: a review of Natural Law Republicanism: Cicero's Liberal Legacy by Michael C. Hawley (Scott B. Nelson, 8/21/22, Law & Liberty)

Hawley argues that Cicero's "political philosophy rests on the pillars of popular sovereignty, republican liberty, and natural law." He demonstrates how the tension inherent to this trinity was ignored by many readers of Cicero throughout history, such as Machiavelli, Grotius, Pufendorf, and the English republicans, before finding a resolution of sorts in the political philosophy of Locke, which formed the basis on which the Founding Fathers established the United States. An adequate understanding of the underlying principles of the US thus requires an adequate understanding of Cicero's political philosophy.

Just as individuals have property, so too is the republic itself the property of the people. In order for the people to own their republic, they must be free.

Hawley is meticulous in the execution, and his approach enables him to respond constructively to two different schools of thought: those who posit a sharp divide between the ancients and the moderns (e.g. Benjamin Constant, Isaiah Berlin, Leo Strauss, and the Straussians) and those republican/neo-Roman scholars (e.g. J. G. A. Pocock, Quentin Skinner, Philip Pettit) who argue that liberalism and republicanism stand in opposition. The key lies in a close reading of the most important works of Cicero's political philosophy, written during the dying days of the Roman republic: De republica, De legibus, and De officiis.

Cicero is the earliest extant philosopher who understands and defends liberty as the neo-Roman scholars do, i.e. freedom from domination or interference. He does so, however, while remaining committed to certain fundamental tenets of the liberal order, such as property rights. Such commitments flow from his understanding of the natural law, applicable to all human beings, discoverable through reason, rewarding those who obey it and punishing those who reject it. Connected to this are other assertions of universal import: humans are social by nature and the reason people form political communities is to defend their property. Thus, the impulse to protect property, far from breaking communal bonds in favor of individual privileges, strengthens our social ties by promoting interactions based on good faith. And just as individuals have property, so too is the republic itself the property of the people. In order for the people to own their republic, they must be free.

Here Hawley draws a contrast between Cicero's philosophy and that of Plato and Aristotle, with whom he is typically grouped as an ancient. Private property is foreign to Plato's ideal city, and while Aristotle may have deviated from his teacher in terms of the practicality of his prescriptions, his opposition is based on how such a political organization would impede citizens from practicing virtues such as liberality. If Cicero was less bothered by this, Hawley argues, it is because he differed from the Greek philosophers in his understanding of what constitutes the highest human end: individual liberty. He could not subscribe to a natural law overly restrictive of human behavior because he believed that humans have two natures: a universal human nature and also the individual's own particular nature. Differences between human beings may result in a good life that is different for different people.

This has implications for the regime. If liberty is the greatest good, then the most virtuous do not have the right to rule the community, even if it is desirable for them to do so. The people and their rights are accorded greater importance than one might expect from an "ancient": For all of his respect for Plato's philosophy, Cicero does not disdain democracy's tendency to encourage the pursuit of liberty. 

But Cicero's "liberalism," if one may refer to it as such, is certainly a liberalism of limits. He advocates a mixed regime as a means of tempering monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic excess. But the effectiveness of a moderate regime is ensured not by institutions alone. Citizens, especially those who aspire to the senate, must possess great virtue, an education provided not by the state, but privately, as Cicero's De officiis was for his own son. Finally, because Cicero can conceive of a law that applies to all humans, he is able, like the Stoics, to entertain the notion of a universal regime including all of mankind. In his philosophy we can detect the potential for liberal cosmopolitanism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Daughter of Ukraine war mastermind 'is blown to pieces in Moscow car bomb' (LAURENCE DOLLIMORE, 20 August 2022, Daily Mail)

The daughter of Vladimir Putin's so-called 'Rasputin' - one of the architects of the Russian tyrant's war in Ukraine - has reportedly been 'blown to pieces' in a car bombing on the outskirts of Moscow, in an alleged assassination plot meant for her father.

Darya Dugin, a sanctioned Russian nationalist whose father Alexander Dugin, 60, is a notorious fascist dubbed 'Putin's brain', is thought to have been killed in an explosion on a highway near the village of Bolshiye Vyazyomy just outside the capital on Saturday night.

August 20, 2022

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Wages are now the hottest inflation signal. Here's what that means for the Federal Reserve and the markets (Eric Rosenbaum, 8/20/22, CNBC)

The latest consumer and producer price data presented key evidence that inflation is easing, but the one key inflation read for the Federal Reserve that has not cooled off: wage growth. While recent CPI and PPI came in lower than expectations, and were received by the market with relief, the latest jobs report and wage growth data remain hot. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


MIT scientists say they have found a way to increase the energy output of wind farms (David Abel, August 19, 2022, Boston Globe)

As countries around the world seek to reduce their carbon emissions, what if there were a way they could generate significantly more power from one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy, without the need to buy any expensive new equipment or clear more land?

Scientists at MIT say they've figured out how to do just that with wind power.

After testing complicated computer models, they've shown that adjusting the rotor blades of turbines at a wind farm -- a change that would reduce the efficiency of an individual turbine if it stood alone -- can significantly increase the overall power produced by the wind farm.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Crimea sabotage signals Ukraine shift to guerrilla war (CHRISTOPH BLUTH, AUGUST 20, 2022, Asia Times)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly replaced the commander of his Black Sea fleet just three days after an attack on the Russian Saki airbase in Crimea, as Ukraine's military strategy shifts towards regaining territory in the south, and especially Crimea.

Meanwhile, Russian aircraft are being moved to bases deeper inside the peninsula or to the mainland. Sevastopol, where the Black Sea fleet command is based, is on high alert. Ukraine has threatened to attack and destroy the famous Kerch Strait bridge which links the Russian mainland to Crimea.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


NH Unemployment Lowest in New England, Second-Lowest in U.S. (Michael Graham, 8/20/22, NH Journal)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the unemployment numbers for July on Friday and, once again, New Hampshire had a jobless rate of just 2.0 percent. It was the lowest of all six New England states and tied with Nebraska as the second-lowest in the nation.

"New Hampshire had the fastest growing economy in the nation last quarter, and thanks to smart policies, our unemployment rate is second lowest in the nation," Sununu said. "None of this would be possible without our tremendous workforce, who help make New Hampshire the best state to live, work, and raise a family."

The 2.0 matches the Granite State's jobless number for June.

Just days ago, a Wallethub data analysis ranked New Hampshire number six on the "Best States to Live In" list, citing education, public safety and, yes, the economy as strong points.

The Granite State had the fastest GDP growth in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2022. And Forbes recently reported the same is true looking back over the past two years. "The state's GDP rose by 8.5 percent over the last two years: From $77.19 billion in fourth quarter 2019 to $83.72 billion in fourth quarter 2021," the fastest in the U.S.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Arizona GOP candidate melts down after being confronted for endorsing lawmaker who says 'Jews will go to hell' (Matthew Chapman, August 19, 2022, Raw Story)

This week, GOP Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake caused controversy when she endorsed Jarrin Jackson -- an Oklahoma legislator who has proclaimed that "the Jews" are evidence that "evil exists" and that "Jews will go to hell."

On Friday, a member of Congress demanded to know whether she endorses those views -- and she responded with a bizarre attack insinuating he may have associated with a Chinese spy.

The essence of Identitarianism. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Was it voter fraud or confusion that led to Florida arrests? (ROMY ELLENBOGEN AND BIANCA PADRÓ OCASIO, Aug. 19th, 2022, Miami Herald)

When Romona Oliver registered to vote in early 2020 at the Hillsborough Tax Collector's office, she was asked if she had a felony conviction. She said yes.

The women helping her with the form submitted it, Oliver said. She said she was never asked specifically if her right to vote had been restored.

Oliver, a Tampa resident, had recently been released from a women's prison in Florida after serving a 20-year sentence for second-degree murder.

In the last few months of her time in prison, Oliver said she'd read about Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment approved by about 65% of Floridians in 2018, which restored the voting rights of most felons who had completed all terms of their sentence.

No one told her she didn't qualify under Amendment 4; the law doesn't apply to those with sex offenses or murder charges. She registered as a Democrat and got her voter card in the mail. [...]

Oliver, like four others arrested, is from Hillsborough County and was removed from the voter rolls in the spring.

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office was notified by the state in late 2021 and early 2022 that the voters had felony convictions and their rights were not restored, spokesperson Gerri Kramer said. Such notifications are part of a regular process, she said.

Kramer said the county elections office makes sure registration forms are filled out correctly, and then submits them to the state for review.

"It's not our role to verify the information," she said.

A few weeks ago, Oliver said she found a Florida Department of Law Enforcement business card in her door frame. She called and was told officers had found something fraudulent on her account.

She thought they meant her bank account. When the officers came to her job and asked if she had voted in 2020, she said yes. Oliver still didn't understand what was wrong when the police came to her door Thursday morning and put her in cuffs.

"I ain't done nothing but go to work and come home," she said.

About what you'd expect from a major MAGA initiative.

August 19, 2022

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Sununu: Bolduc a 'Conspiracy Theorist Extremist;' Will Make it Harder for GOP to Win (Michael Graham, 8/19/22, NH Jopurnal)

Gov. Chris Sununu said Friday his endorsement in the U.S. Senate GOP primary is a possibility. But endorsing Don Bolduc is not.

"He's not a serious candidate, he's really not," Sununu said of the retired general and current frontrunner. "If he were the nominee, I have no doubt we would have a much harder time trying to win that seat back. So I don't take him seriously as a candidate. I don't think most people do."

During an interview on WGIR radio, Sununu said he might endorse a GOP Senate primary candidate, "and maybe in the First CD or maybe some local house and Senate races, too. Everything's still very much on the table in terms of endorsement," Sununu said. The governor has already endorsed Keene Mayor George Hansel in the Second Congressional District primary.

But he won't be backing Bolduc, who he described as a "conspiracy-theory extremist."

Sununu compared Bolduc to far-right GOP candidates whose campaigns were boosted by millions of dollars in Democrat-funded campaign ads to help them defeat more viable Republicans. In Illinois and Michigan, those candidates are now the GOP nominees.

"Democrats are actually using Democrat donations to fund the candidacies of these conspiracy-theory extremists across the country," Sununu said. "If I were a Democrat, I'd be seriously angry about it, frankly,  because those folks could still potentially win. Democrats could be helping give the seat, not to a more reasonable candidate on the Republican side, but to folks that carry this kind of really bizarre extremism."

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Trump "Will Be Indicted": As the former president faces legal investigations, the author and white-collar-crime scholar Jennifer Taub identifies the probe that's furthest along, what January 6 Committee graphic was key, and why you can't get a toupee in federal prison. (Matthew Cooper, August 19, 2022, Washington Monthly)

 After the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago last week, I called my colleague Jennifer Taub--author, law professor, and expert on financial crimes. She is the author of Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime and Other People's Houses: How Decades of Bailouts, Captive Regulators, and Toxic Bankers Made Home Mortgages a Thrilling Business. She is also a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly. We caught up on the investigation over the phone and in subsequent emails, ending on August 18.

This conversation has been edited and shortened for clarity. [...]

MC: Let me ask you about fake electoral slates. They seem to be a relatively straightforward case of fraud.

JT: Fraud is not the correct charge. It's called conspiracy to defraud the United States, which isn't the usual kind of fraud. It would be the argument that [Trump] conspired with [his lawyer] John Eastman and maybe others to interfere with the joint session of Congress counting the electoral votes. That's one charge, and the second would be obstruction of a congressional proceeding. When Judge [David] Carter ordered Eastman's materials to go to the January 6 Committee, he did so because he said that he believed it's more likely than not that Trump and Eastman were engaged in crimes. So those are those two charges. And yes, I do think that is a fruitful path. But I also think the seditious conspiracy is one, and they shouldn't back down from that.

MC: What Trump actions could trigger a seditious conspiracy indictment?

JT: The statute says "to put down or destroy by force, the government of the United States...or to oppose by force the authority prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law, of the United States." So, the idea is that you're using force to do that. So, the first avenue with the fake electors is part of an effort to conspire and obstruct in a nonviolent way, but the seditious conspiracy is trying to accomplish the same goal through force.

MC: Gotcha.

JT: These two streams of the investigation are parallel. Eastman and others were doing the fake electoral votes, and then people like Roger Stone did the others.

MC: Your area of expertise is financial crimes. So, the former president took the Fifth a gazillion times with New York Attorney General Tish James. Tell me what you think of the case the state of New York is putting together.

JT: I've always thought the case is strong, as is the overlapping case that the New York district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is investigating. It's hard to know all the stuff she's investigating, but my understanding is that she's looking at state tax fraud at the civil level and at falsifying business records. Because of the civil case, the burden of proof is much lower. Because the business is incorporated in New York, one of the remedies is to dissolve that corporation.

MC: So Trump misrepresented the value of his assets?

JT: They treated assets as if they were extremely valuable when the value would benefit him and treated them as not as valuable when it wouldn't. You want the property to look less valuable when you pay tax. If you're getting a bank loan, you would like the collateral to seem more valuable. He was engaged in kindergarten cooking of the books, right? This is not Enron.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


Fire at munitions depot near Ukraine border sparks Russian evacuations (PAUL BYRNE, 8/19/22, AP)

A fire at a munitions depot near the Russian village of Timonovo has led to the evacuation of two villages in Russia's Belgorod region on Ukraine's northeastern border, an official said Friday. The blaze was the latest in a series of destructive incidents on Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine or inside Russia itself.

Roughly 1,100 people reside in the villages of Timonovo and Soloti, around 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the Ukrainian border. There were no casualties in the blaze late Thursday, Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

The fire came days after another ammunition depot exploded on the Crimean Peninsula, a Russian-occupied territory on the Black Sea that was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Last week, nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed at an airbase on Crimea, demonstrating both the Russians' vulnerability and the Ukrainians' capacity to strike deep behind enemy lines. Ukrainian authorities have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


DOJ must make public memo analyzing whether to charge Trump in Russia investigation, federal appeals court rules (Katelyn Polantz, 8/19/22, CNN)

The Justice Department must make public an internal legal memo commissioned by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to analyze whether he should charge then-President Donald Trump with obstruction related to the Russia investigation, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

The ruling from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals comes in a case brought by a government watchdog group that is seeking to get the unredacted version of the memo. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


A parody Twitter account created by a paralegal mocking Dr. Oz's 'crudites' campaign video goes viral (Brian Schwartz, 8/19/22, CNBC)

A parody Twitter account created by a Pittsburgh-based paralegal is causing fresh headaches for the Senate campaign of Dr. Mehmet Oz.

The account, created earlier this month, mocks an April campaign video of the veteran TV host botching the name of a Redner's grocery store as it casts the candidate as out of touch with the Pennsylvania voters he's hoping to represent.

The campaign video shows the Republican walking through a Redner's market in Pennsylvania, where he mispronounces the name of the store as "Wegners" and complains about inflation and the soaring costs of vegetables needed to make a "crudites" platter, which is more commonly known as a vegetable platter. Oz told Newsmax in a recent interview that he got the name of the store wrong because he was exhausted after campaigning 18 hours a day. "I've gotten my kids names wrong as well. I don't think that's a measure of someone's ability to lead the commonwealth," he said.

Jon Romanishin, a paralegal from Pennsylvania, jumped on Oz's mispronunciation of the Redner's grocery store chain to launch the parody Twitter account Monday @grocerieswegner or Wegner's Groceries, which isn't a real store. The Twitter bio reads "The Crudité Capital of Central PA." [...]

Mary Anne Marsh, a veteran Democratic Party strategist, told CNBC that the account represents how the digital age has transformed campaigns and that sometimes, to give a boost to a candidate, all it takes is someone with a social media account. "Anyone with a social media account can now change a race as much as any ad, story or debate," she said. "That puts more political power in the hands of people and when used well it's good for democracy."

The Wegner's campaign account itself was so convincing that it had political strategists and celebrities seemingly convinced that either it was made by a member of Fetterman's social media team or that the Wegner's store was real.

"In future campaign trainings I facilitate I will be using the Oz Grocery video on what to not do when you want to relate to voters, but I will also contrast it with how on point the Fetterman digital campaign has been," Atima Omara, a party strategist, tweeted in response to the Wegner's account tweet. Ken Olin, an actor, said in response to the Wegner's account trolling Oz "Ooof. You know you're losing when a grocery store trolls you."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Doug Mastriano's campaign "prophet": Political executions are coming, Biden "is no longer alive," Pelosi drinks "children's blood" (ERIC HANANOKI,  08/17/22, Media Matters)

Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano has promoted and campaigned with Julie Green, a "prophet" who has claimed that God will execute political figures "for their planned pandemic, shortages, inflation, mandates and for stealing an election." The Mastriano ally and fringe religious commentator has also alleged a variety of conspiracy theories, including that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "loves to drink the little children's blood"; the government is conducting "human sacrifices" to stay in power; and President Joe Biden is secretly dead and an "actor" is playing him. 

Green, who says she has a "special relationship" with Mastriano, has implicated numerous Republican figures as traitors, including Republican Governors Association co-chair and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. She has alleged that there will be a video showing that he took a bribe to swing the 2020 election and he "will be no more, and treason will be written on" him "for all eternity." 

...and then they wonder why they feel; condescended to...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel shutters Palestinian human rights groups, drawing diplomatic backlash (Miriam Berger, 8/19/22,  The Washington Post)

 Israel closed the offices of five leading Palestinian rights organizations in an early-morning raid in Ramallah on Thursday, tightening its restrictions on civil society nearly a year after it labeled the organizations terrorist groups in an internationally criticized move. [...]

The escalation is the latest blow for Palestinians who say they have shrinking space for political expression and dissent at a time when there is little international effort to end the conflict and Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

The point of the Abraham Accords is to crush Muslim civil society.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Scientists find simple, safe method to destroy 'forever chemicals' (The New Arab, 19 August, 2022)

Chemists in the United States and China on Thursday said they had finally found a breakthrough method to degrade these polluting compounds, referred to as PFAS, using relatively low temperatures and common reagents.

Their results were published in the journal Science, potentially offering a solution to a longstanding source of harm to the environment, livestock and humans.

"It really is why I do science -- so that I can have a positive impact on the world," senior author William Dichtel of Northwestern University told reporters during a news conference.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


NH Climbs in Annual "Best State" Rankings (Damien Fisher, 8/18/22, NH Journal)

The report puts New Hampshire 6th in the nation overall and earning strong showings with a 6th ranking for health and education, 5th for safety, and 7th for its economy. New Hampshire comes in 40th in the nation for overall affordability and 36th for quality of life. [...]

Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are the top three in the 2022 list. Maine and Vermont come in 11th and 12th respectively. Connecticut landed at the 25th spot and Rhode Island trailed the rest of New England with 28th place.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


On Gab, Truth Social and beyond, antisemitic threats continue in the wake of the FBI's Mar-a-Lago search (MADELINE FIXLER, AUGUST 18, 2022, JTA)

When a Florida synagogue canceled its "Beach Shabbat" services amid threats against one of its board members, the judge who signed the warrant authorizing an FBI search of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, it felt to some like a pivotal moment in the history of American antisemitism.

"The combination of a synagogue in Florida having to cancel Shabbat due to antisemitic threats against the Jewish judge who signed the Trump warrant, combined with right-wing media figures pointing out that Merrick Garland is Jewish, is making me very uneasy as an American Jew," a doctoral student in American Jewish history named Joel Swanson wrote on Twitter. 

Many of the attacks on Judge Bruce Reinhardt have referenced his Jewish identity, from a viral tweet by retired baseball player Lenny Dykstra to chatter on pro-Trump message boards. So, too, has criticism of Merrick Garland, the U.S. attorney general who authorized the search as part of an ongoing investigation into whether Trump may have violated the Espionage Act. 

The torrent of antisemitic vitriol against them have raised concerns that Trump's base, which has already shown potential for violence, could channel that rhetoric into action.

Anti-semites are his base.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump supporter who flew on private jet to Jan. 6 riot and threw media equipment outside the Capitol pleads guilty (Ryan J. Reilly, 8/18/22, NBC News)

Katherine Schwab of Texas, who said she accepted an offer to fly on the personal aircraft of a Facebook friend, admitted writing in messages before the Capitol attack that "s--t will go down" and that she needed to "stop the steal."

Schwab, who traveled to Washington with co-defendants Jenna Ryan and Jason Lee Hyland, admitted she was the first of the trio to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Hyland was sentenced to a week behind bars this month; Ryan -- who had declared she was "not going to jail" -- was sentenced in November to 60 days in prison.

Prosecuting MAGA is a RICO case.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Florida judge blocks parts of Gov. Ron DeSantis-backed 'Stop WOKE Act,' saying the state has turned into the upside-down world from 'Stranger Things' (Kimberly Leonard, 8/19/22, Business Insider)

In his opinion, Chief US District Judge Mark Walker blocked the employer portion of the law, saying it violated free speech. He compared the law to Netflix's blockbuster science-fiction hit, "Stranger Things."

"In the popular television series Stranger Things, the 'upside down' describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world," Walker, a nominee of then-President Barack Obama, wrote in his opinion. "Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down."

"Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely," Walker continued. "But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely."

At the confluence of two things these guys hate: the Constitution and free markets.

August 18, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Trump's legal woes enter yet another protracted phase (NICHOLAS WU, ANDREW DESIDERIO, KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 08/18/2022, Politico)

Donald Trump entered Thursday demanding answers about the basis for the FBI search of his private residence and calling for a swift end to the investigation. Instead, the former president got few new details about the probe and a piece of unwelcome news to boot: the feds are just getting started.

That was the message from top Justice Department prosecutors during an hour-long federal court hearing Thursday over whether to publicly release elements of the probable-cause affidavit that led to the unprecedented search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. And it's the latest sign that the Trump legal controversies that have clouded Washington for years may be entering a new protracted chapter.

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


2022--The Year the Hydrogen Economy Launched? The Inflation Reduction Act and the war in Ukraine pump billions into clean hydrogen (GLENN ZORPETTE, 8/18/22, IEEE Spectrum)

Now, after decades of false starts and overly optimistic projections, several factors are giving an unprecedented lift to clean hydrogen. In the United States, sweeping legislation capped a series of moves by the country's Department of Energy (DOE) over the past year to drive down the cost of low-carbon hydrogen and stimulate demand for the fuel. And in Europe, a looming fossil-fuel crisis has sent officials scrambling to find alternatives to the 155 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas that EU countries imported in 2021.

"I've been working in hydrogen for 20 years, and this is absolutely the most exciting time, the busiest time," says Keith Wipke, manager of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies Program at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. "There's just so much activity." [...]

The DOE has established goals of getting the cost of low-carbon hydrogen, without incentives, down to $2/kg by 2026, and to $1/kg by 2031. Says Wipke, referring to the top $3/kg credit in the Inflation Reduction Act, "if today's hydrogen is about $5 a kilogram through electrolysis, clean electrolysis, and you're able to take $3 off of that, and go from $5 down to $2, well, essentially, you have met, with the incentives, our 2026 goal of $2 a kilogram. Now, technically, you've done it through incentives, but the impact is the same. You're rapidly getting the cost of hydrogen down to where it is very competitive--and in many cases cheaper--than the fossil alternative. So that's why the community is so excited."

Posted by orrinj at 5:00 PM


Trump aides think a family member informed on him to the FBI because agents knew where to find a specific leather case, report says (Tom Porter, 8/18/22, Insider)

According to the sources, some aides were convinced that only a family member would have known to point agents to a particular leather-bound box, as well as knowing the location of Trump's safe. 

Both Trump's estranged niece, Mary, and his former attorney Michael Cohen have speculated that Jared Kushner, the former president's son-in-law, could be the informant. Neither offered evidence to back the claim. 

According to multiple reports, agents conducting the raid were acting on information, including witness testimony, that Trump had not return all the classified information which was requested by the Justice Department and National Archives.

The New York Times reported that agents also obtained surveillance footage via subpoena of a hallway near the storage room where the documents were being kept and saw something that alarmed them. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


GOP group apologizes for mistakenly posting KKK image (AP, 8/17/22) 

A Republican group in Alabama is apologizing after accidentally using a picture of the GOP elephant that contained Ku Klux Klan imagery.

Posted by orrinj at 12:20 PM


On radio show, Paladino said Merrick Garland 'probably should be executed' (Ben Tsujimoto, Aug 17, 2022, Buffalo News)

Republican congressional candidate Carl Paladino said on a radio show last week that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland "probably should be executed" following the raid of Donald Trump's estate in Mar-a-Lago.

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


Freezing Cold Takes Is the Sports Twitter We Deserve (KIRK MILLER, 8/18/22, Inside Hook)

The world of bad sports takes is vast and mostly unchecked -- somehow, that awful Colin Cowherd or Mad Dog Russo or [irksome local sports columnist of your choice] prediction you heard yesterday or last year or even decades ago goes unacknowledged or gets blatantly contradicted, often with no repercussion. 

And that's where Fred Segal comes in. A lawyer by trade, Segal now runs Freezing Cold Takes, a social media site that digs up quotes and predictions from members of the sports world that have aged poorly (with an occasional potshot at overeager fans or a terrible non-sports prediction thrown in for laughs).

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


Once hated by the left, FBI is now US conservatives' evil demon (AFP, August 18, 2022)

"It's the world turned upside down," said Kenneth O'Reilly, a retired University of Alaska historian, who has written books about the FBI and politics.

According to O'Reilly, the FBI has historically been a "deeply conservative institution" with a bipartisan constituency in Washington.

To hate America is to hate its guardians.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Now, Kyiv is fighting back (Holly Ellyatt, 8/18/22, CNBC)

When Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014 little was done to stop it or actively help Ukraine get its territory back, a salient point given Russia's full-scale invasion of its neighbor that begun earlier this year.

But now, Ukraine appears to be finally in a position to fight back on the peninsula with a spate of recent incidents in which Russian military positions and infrastructure in Crimea have been damaged.

These, it's believed, are likely to be a part of Ukraine's tentative counteroffensive in the south as it seeks to dislodge the occupying forces and eventually reclaim its territory, once and for all.

Nationalism doesn't work. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Tesla boosts size and rating of Megapack battery module by 50 per cent (Joshua S Hill, 18 August 2022, Renew Economy)

EV and battery storage giant Tesla has quietly increased the size of its Megapack battery modules by around 50%, indicating what many believe to be a long-awaited switch to lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.

The company has made no official announcement that it is increasing the size of its Megapack batteries, or the chemistry switch, but keen-eyed Tesla-watchers noticed this week that the order page for Tesla's Megapack had updated figures.

This indicated a single Megapack was 50% more powerful than it was just two months ago, with energy storage capacity of 3.9MWh per single Megapack and a power rating of 1.9MW.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Happiness is a Warm Democracy: A greater exposure to democracy leads to a higher level of self-reported happiness. (Matthew Wills  August 2, 2022, JSTOR Daily)

It turns out there's a significant positive relationship between democracy and happiness.

"A more democratic system is likely to produce political outcomes that are closer to the preferences of the citizens than a system with less democratic elements. [...] a greater exposure to democracy can be expected to raise individuals's well-being."

So write scholars David Dorn, Justina A. V. Fischer, Gebhard Kirchgässner and Alfonso Sousa-Poza. They conducted a cross-national analysis of twenty-eight countries using data collected during an International Social Survey Program (ISSP) survey. They found that, "even after controlling for culture, income and numerous individual socio-demographic characteristics," like language and religion, there was a "positive and significant relationship between democracy and happiness."

Having some kind of say in governance, it seems, is a good for mental and emotional well-being.

No one has ever been unhappier than the Right/Left in their rage against liberalism. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


U.S., Taiwan agree on negotiating mandate for trade talks (DOUG PALMER, 08/17/2022, Politico)

The United States and Taiwan have agreed on terms for negotiating a series of bilateral trade agreements over the strong objections of Beijing, which views the self-governing island as part of its territory.

"We plan to pursue an ambitious schedule for achieving high-standard commitments and meaningful outcomes covering the eleven trade areas in the negotiating mandate that will help build a fairer, more prosperous and resilient 21st century economy," Deputy United States Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi said in a statement.

This is an actual inflation reduction act.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


State regulators approve Eversource's electric vehicle infrastructure plan (Mara Hoplamazian, 8/17/22, NHPR)

A plan from Eversource to spend about $2 million helping to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure in New Hampshire was approved by the Public Utilities Commission late Monday.

As more electric vehicles hit the road, many Granite Staters are hoping more public charging stations will pop up, too. But in addition to the plugs and wires that deliver power to an electric car, those stations could also require upgrading parts of the grid - things like poles, wires, substations, and transformers - to provide electricity service in a location that hasn't had it before, or to meet additional demand at that site.

That's mostly what Eversource's proposal - called a "make-ready plan" - will help with. The utility's funds will work in tandem with a pot of money from a Volkswagen legal settlement dedicated to building charging stations across the state, along with capital from the developers of charging stations.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Liz Cheney: 'There Is Actually Precedent for ... Vice Presidents to Testify': The outgoing GOP rep discusses the possibility of Mike Pence appearing before the January 6 committee. . (Steve Hayes, 8/18/22, The Dispatch)

Hayes: Speaking of that violence, last night in your speech you accused President Trump of willfully endangering the lives of FBI agents and deliberately stoking political violence more broadly--January 6, of course, but it sounded like you were talking about the things he's saying and doing contemporaneously.

I'd make the argument that nobody is a bigger target than you are. Does that factor into your thinking about what to do next? 

Cheney: I don't think you can let it. I think what he's doing now is--violence is a direct and foreseeable consequence of what he's doing. I think it's malicious when he releases the search warrant with the names of the FBI agents on it. When he reportedly has somebody call the Justice Department in a way that sounds very much like mafia tactics. All of that--it can't be something that we accept in American politics.

Hayes: Former Vice President Pence said this morning that he's open to talking to the January 6 committee if he's invited. And there were some more [qualifications] around his answer but that's more or less what he said. Are you going to invite him?

Cheney: I haven't seen specifically what he's said. We've had discussions with his attorneys previously and that was not his position, so I'm interested to see what he's said now and see if there really has been some kind of change. Previously, his view has been that there were serious constitutional issues involved with having a vice president testify in front of Congress. 

Hayes: (Reading Pence's exact words) Pence said, "If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it. Any invitation that would be directed to me, I would have to reflect on the unique role I was serving in as vice president. It would be unprecedented in history for the vice president to be summoned to testify on Capitol Hill. But as I said, I don't want to pre-judge. So if any formal invitation was rendered to us, we'd give it due consideration." 

Cheney: We'll continue our engagement with his counsel and make a determination going forward about any conditions under which he would come and testify. I would point out that in fact you have had situations where, for example, in the aftermath of 9/11, you've had the president and the vice president testify to the 9/11 commission. After he granted Nixon's pardon, President Ford testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. So there is actually precedent when you have a national crisis for presidents, vice presidents to testify. The 9/11 commission obviously was different--it wasn't technically Congress. But certainly the subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee was. 

Vice President Pence played a critical role on that day. His comments in the aftermath have varied in terms of his willingness to talk about the seriousness of the crisis the nation faced--or in terms of his description of the seriousness of the crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


Weeks before Mar-a-Lago search, ex-Trump DOD official vowed to publish classified documents from National Archives (Will Steakin, Alexander Mallin, and Katherine Faulders, August 17, 2022, ABC News)

In June of this year, seven weeks before the FBI raided former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in search of classified materials, former Defense Department appointee and outspoken Trump loyalist Kash Patel vowed to retrieve classified documents from the National Archives and publish them on his website.

Trump had just issued a letter instructing the National Archives to grant Patel and conservative journalist John Solomon access to nonpublic administration records, according to reporting at the time.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Giuliani faces grand jury in Georgia 2020 election probe (KATE BRUMBACK, 8/17/22, Associated Press)

Though grand jury secrecy rules prohibit people present during grand jury testimony from discussing it, that prohibition does not apply to witnesses, including Giuliani. As a former federal prosecutor, he is likely familiar with those rules.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


In an effort to address its missteps during Covid, CDC plans an 'ambitious' agency overhaul (Helen Branswell , Aug. 17, 2022, Stat)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency that has had its reputation battered by a series of missteps in the Covid-19 pandemic, and a slow response to the monkeypox outbreak, will undergo an "ambitious" overhaul, Director Rochelle Walensky announced Wednesday.

In an email to staff, Walensky said the renewal effort will focus on making the agency more nimble and responsive to needs that arise in health emergencies. The priority will be to gather data that can be used to rapidly dispense public health guidance, rather than craft scientific papers.

Walensky also said the agency needs to acknowledge the flaws of its response to Covid-19. Those mistakes date to the earliest days of the pandemic, when a test designed by CDC scientists to detect the new disease failed to work on the ground -- leaving the country blind to how quickly the SARS-CoV-2 virus was transmitting at a critical juncture when aggressive measures could have slowed Covid's spread.

Sex between men, not skin contact, is fueling monkeypox, new research suggests (Benjamin Ryan, 8/17/22, NBC News)

Since the outset of the global monkeypox outbreak in May, public health and infectious disease experts have told the public that the virus is largely transmitting through skin-to-skin contact, in particular during sex between men. 

Now, however, an expanding cadre of experts has come to believe that sex between men itself -- both anal as well as oral intercourse -- is likely the main driver of global monkeypox transmission. The skin contact that comes with sex, these experts say, is probably much less of a risk factor.

In recent weeks, a growing body of scientific evidence -- including a trio of studies published in peer-reviewed journals, as well as reports from national, regional and global health authorities -- has suggested that experts may have framed monkeypox's typical transmission route precisely backward.  

August 17, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


Mike Pence tells Republicans to stop attacking the FBI after Mar-a-Lago search (Alexandra Hutzler, August 17, 2022, ABC News)

Speaking at a political event in Manchester, New Hampshire on Wednesday, Pence said the criticisms coming from members of his own party have to end.

"The Republican Party is the party of law and order," Pence said. "And these attacks on the FBI must stop; calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police."

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


The Trump Legal Defense Has a Donald Trump Problem (ROBERT KATZBERG, AUG 17, 2022, Slate)

Last week brought significant legal challenges to former president Donald Trump. First on Monday, the FBI executed a search warrant at his home at Mar-a-Lago, seizing classified documents he had removed from the White House. Then on Wednesday, sitting for a deposition in a civil investigation conducted by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Trump reportedly asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege to all 440 questions posed. While the two stories may not appear linked--one concerns a civil probe into Trump's businesses and the other a criminal investigation of Trump's post-White House handling of classified government documents--they are actually closely interrelated in a critical way. That is, Trump's need to invoke the Fifth Amendment in lieu of providing information in his own defense in a civil case tells us much about his future ability, or lack of same, to present a "lack of criminal intent" or "state of mind" defense to potential criminal charges.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


EXCLUSIVE: 'Say hi to the Donald for us': Florida police briefed armed right-wing group before they went to Jan. 6 protest (Eric Levai, Aug 17, 2022, Daily Dot)

Florida sheriffs, acting under the orders of a local politician, gave a security briefing to an armed right-wing group heading to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,  2021, according to videos obtained by the Daily Dot. 

The Flager Liberty Coalition (FLC) recommended its members pack body armor, mace, and knives--which they said were for protection--and were working with Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins to bring crowds to D.C. that day. Mullins has faced criticism from his fellow local politicians for attending the protests that turned into the Capitol insurrection.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg will testify against company as part of plea deal: source (Molly Crane-Newman, 8/17/22, New York Daily News)

The Trump Organization's longtime chief financial officer will admit to conspiring with the Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corporation in a 15-year tax fraud scheme while head of the company's finances at a Manhattan Supreme Court hearing on Thursday, the Daily News has confirmed.

Allen Weisselberg is expected to criminally implicate Trump's family real estate business when he pleads guilty to criminal tax fraud charges, a source familiar with the matter told The News on Wednesday.

As part of Weisselberg's plea deal -- for which he's expected to serve five months on Rikers Island -- Weisselberg will agree to testify against the companies when they goes to trial in October if he is called as a witness, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Burke's Commitment to Social Freedom: A robust defense of ordered liberty is more relevant than ever against the totalitarian movements of our day: a review of Edmund Burke and the Perennial Battle, 1789-1797 (Paul Krause, 8/16/22, Law & Liberty)

Klein and Pino's introduction sets the foundation for reading their selection of writings gathered together from Burke's pen. They offer a brief sketch arguing that Burke belongs to the same strand of political liberty and natural rights as Adam Smith and David Hume. In truth, though, Burke transcends Smith and Hume, and he is equally, if not more, indebted to classical authors like Aristotle and Cicero, especially the latter, who appears over and over again in Burke's many writings, including his political ones, which emphasize the need for social harmony as the basis of liberty just as Cicero had written in De re Publica.

Our editors' emphasis on Burke and social freedom, however, is worthwhile and important for readers to grapple with. It shows that humans thrive by living in harmony with each other, which enhances liberty and personality (something very different from the misanthropic anthropologies of classical liberal philosophers like Hobbes and Locke). It is also a basis for Burke's critique of the French Revolution and his final writings explaining the need for an alliance of European powers to liberate the French people from Jacobin tyranny. According to Burke, the French revolutionaries showed themselves to be unqualified or unfit for liberty, since liberty is something delicate (an aesthetic quality Burke outlined in his Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful) and can easily be lost in the zealotry of revolutionary fervor which ends in destruction and is not conducive to the spirit of social freedom.

The French Revolution, from this insight, threatens social harmony and, therefore, the social freedom of all (not just in France). The Terror and the passions induced in it bring war where there is peace and despotism where there is freedom; as social creatures, the freedom we enjoy through social relationships would be destroyed. Given the subsequent three decades of near endless war, Burke was certainly prescient in foreseeing revolutionary "behavior... as a threat to the continent at large."

Radical and totalitarian movements ultimately seek to eradicate these social relationships because in their top-down politics of control, the vibrancy and strength of social freedom must be destroyed for the totalitarian blueprint to emerge.

Burke's commitment to a freedom rooted in our social nature is what helps explain his seemingly radical defense of Indians against the exploitation of the East India Company, his commitment to Catholic emancipation, and his condemnation of the slave trade. Far from abandoning his principles of liberty when he critiqued the French Revolution, as Charles Fox and other radical Whigs lamentingly insisted, Burke remained committed to a social freedom that was threatened by the Revolution which misanthropic liberals like Fox and other Whigs were incapable of realizing. As Burke himself wrote in his letter to Charles-Jean-Francois Depont:

[Freedom] is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty; as if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will. The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is the state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint... This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.

Social freedom is anathema to various strands of Enlightenment misanthropy, be they Hobbesian, Lockean, Rousseauian, or Marxist. What unites these traditions, even if they go by the names "liberal" or "socialist" or "communist," is an underpinning animus against sociality and an endorsement of a liberty that is "solitary, unconnected, individual" and, ultimately, "selfish." Burke is ultimately no friend of the misanthropic individualism of collectivist and statist ideologies.

That commitment to classical (republican) liberty--"the equality of restraint"--is the whole magilla.  So long as we arrive at our laws together and are all restrained by them equally, I'm fine with what you do and don't mind what you won't let me. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pete Carril, Princeton's Hall of Fame basketball coach, dies at 92 (John Otis, 8/15/22,  The Washington Post)

Mr. Carril designed a half-court offense demanding constant motion by all five players, with disciplined passing and quick cuts to the basket for open shots. The goal was to spread the floor, wind down the shot clock and wear down defenders until they made a mistake - or a Princeton player wriggled free for a layup or a jump shot.

"The main thing is to get a good shot every time down the floor," said Mr. Carril, who was inspired by the unselfish play of Bill Russell's Boston Celtics of the 1960s. "If that's old-fashioned, then I'm guilty."

During Mr. Carril's time at Princeton, his team won the National Invitational Tournament in 1975, notched 13 Ivy League titles, earned 11 NCAA tournament berths, and ambushed basketball powers such as UCLA, Indiana, and Duke. He was the only Division I men's coach to win more than 500 games (most of them against Ivy League teams) without the benefit of athletic scholarships, and in 1997, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"We went into every game thinking we had an advantage no matter who we were playing, because we were incredibly well prepared," Matt Eastwick, one of Mr. Carril's former players, told the Go Princeton Tigers website in 2007. "Isn't that the mark of a great coach?"

Yet the most famous game Mr. Carril coached was one that Princeton lost.

In the first round of the 1989 NCAA tournament, his 16th-seeded Tigers played Georgetown, the No. 1 seed, a team anchored by 6-foot-10 Alonzo Mourning and 7-foot-2 Dikembe Mutombo, both future NBA Hall of Famers.

To simulate their towering presences at practices, Mr. Carril told his assistants to hold up brooms for his much smaller players to shoot over. During pregame warm-ups, ESPN announcer Mike Gorman said Princeton, a 23-point underdog with no players taller than 6-foot-8, looked like a high school team that had stumbled into the wrong gym.

But Princeton's zone defense forced the Hoyas to settle for outside shots, while the Tigers ran the backdoor, with players rushing toward the ball and then cutting behind their defenders' backs to the basket for easy layups. At halftime, Princeton had a shocking eight-point lead. Georgetown came back in the second half and won by a single point, 50-49, but the game was seen as vindication for small schools and changed the nature of the NCAA tournament.

Until then, first-round games were relegated to cable TV. But the prospect of more David vs. Goliath barnburners helped persuade CBS to sign a seven-year $1 billion deal with the NCAA to televise every game of the tournament, transforming college basketball's March Madness into a cultural phenomenon rivaling the Super Bowl.

Before the game, NCAA officials considered revoking automatic bids for weaker conferences because their teams were often blown out. Princeton's riveting near victory quashed those discussions and opened the door for future upsets by small fry such as Middle Tennessee State, Florida Gulf Coast, Northern Iowa, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Sports Illustrated dubbed Princeton-Georgetown "The Game that Saved March Madness."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Germany Sees Tidal Shift in Sentiment Toward Atomic Energy (Melanie Amann, Vicky Isabelle Bargel, Marco Evers, Tobias Großekemper, Hubert Gude, Kevin Hagen, Johanna Jürgens, Christine Keck, Philipp Kollenbroich, Cordula Meyer, Guido Mingels, Benedikt Müller-Arnold, Ralf Neukirch, Jonas Schaible, Ansgar Siemens, Christian Teevs, Severin Weiland und Steffen Winter, 12.08.2022, Der Spiegel)

[Klaus Zilian] has backed away from a formerly held conviction. "I was always in favor of the plan to phase out nuclear power," the 54-year-old says of Germany's plan to take all of its atomic energy plants offline by the end of this year. He says the situation changed because of the crisis with Russia. He says he supports keeping nuclear power plants online to prevent having to use natural gas to generate electricity. "We should use the existing nuclear power plants for as long as the crisis lasts," he says.

It's a typical scene from a country that is afraid, even amid the summer heat, of the coming winter and the threat of gas shortages. It's a country eyeing its nuclear power plants, the few that are still operating and those that were just recently switched off, from a new perspective: Couldn't they help now, amid the potentially imminent  emergency? In any case, many people no longer seem to see the cooling towers and their clouds of steam as a symbol of evil, but rather one of hope.

A poll commissioned by DER SPIEGEL has revealed some rather shocking numbers. According to the survey carried out by the online polling firm Civey, only 22 percent of those surveyed are in favor of shutting down the three nuclear plants that are still in operation in Germany - Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland - as planned at the end of the year.

August 16, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


Germany to Keep Last Three Nuclear-Power Plants Running in Policy U-Turn (Bojan Pancevski, Aug. 16, 2022, WSJ)

Germany plans to postpone the closure of the country's last three nuclear power plants as it braces for a possible shortage of energy this winter after Russia throttled gas supplies to the country, said German government officials.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM



The Justice Department is currently investigating Gaetz for three alleged crimes: paying women for sex, having a sexual relationship with a minor, and for paying that minor to travel with him across state lines (which would be in violation of sex trafficking laws). Thus far, no charges have been brought against Gaetz, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. However, Joel Greenberg, Gaetz's apparent "wingman," last year admitted to the sex trafficking of a minor and has been cooperating with investigators leading the Gaetz probe as part of a plea deal. 

The Niceville High School's Facebook page says the event, dubbed an "Academy Night," is "an opportunity for high school students to speak directly with Congressman Gaetz." According to Gaetz's website, the Republican congressman will be hosting at least one other Academy Night early in the fall semester. Academy Nights are hosted for students interested in attending the Naval, Military, Air Force, or Merchant Marine academies. Applications for the Naval Academy, for example, require a nomination from an "official source," which can be a U.S. representative from the applicant's district. Each representative has a limited number of nominations to dole out. 

Qanon is just there to distract from the actual predators of the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Walmart's earnings are trying to tell us something about inflation, consumer sentiment, and whether we're headed for a recession (COLIN LODEWICK, August 16, 2022, Fortune)

On Tuesday, Walmart reported that its revenue rose 8.4% in the second quarter despite fears that the pandemic and inflation-related shifts in consumer behavior would hurt sales.

"We're pleased to see more customers choosing Walmart during this inflationary period, and we're working hard to support them as they prioritize their spending," said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon in a statement. He noted that the company has successfully reduced its inventory levels recently via markdowns, leading to a smaller profit margin despite sales growth.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Georgia election data copied under direction of Trump attorney (Mark Niesse, 8/16/22, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A group of Donald Trump supporters copied a trove of sensitive Georgia election files in Coffee County after the 2020 presidential election, a breach that included data from an election server, voter check-in computers and ballot memory cards, according to documents produced in response to subpoenas.

Trump attorney Sidney Powell helped coordinate the effort, and she was billed over $26,000 by computer experts from Atlanta tech company SullivanStrickler, the records show.

The GBI confirmed Tuesday that it has opened a criminal investigation of the incident on Jan. 7, 2021, when the group flew from Atlanta to South Georgia and were given access by local election officials to equipment that was supposed to be kept secure from outsiders. Computer theft is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Damning new Pence leaks reveal a big truth about Trump -- and the GOP (Greg Sargent, August 16, 2022, Washington Post)

Throughout the sordid saga of Donald Trump's post-presidency, Mike Pence has shown Republicans another way. By defending his refusal to subvert the 2020 election results, Pence has illustrated -- in the face of Trump's fury -- that you can prioritize constitutional governance above loyalty to Trump and still call yourself a Republican.

Something similar may be unfolding with the scandal surrounding government documents that Trump improperly -- and possibly illegally -- had at his Mar-a-Lago resort, where federal agents searched the premises last week.

Pence allies are now quietly drawing attention to sharp differences in how the men handled their documents as Trump's presidency ended. Sources tell the New York Times that Pence aides scrupulously followed protocol in organizing his government papers -- a contrast obviously intended to reflect badly on Trump.

This disparity captures something essential about this situation. Pence is demonstrating that Republicans should want to handle documents responsibly, that maybe Trump's conduct in this regard might have been -- gasp! -- less than perfect. That's not a position many Republicans dare to articulate.

The Times quotes numerous sources blaming Mark Meadows for failing to oversee the handling of Trump's documents, effectively throwing the former White House chief of staff under the bus. The Times then adds this contrast with Pence:

As Mr. Trump sought to hold on to power, two of Mr. Pence's senior aides -- Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, his counsel -- indexed and boxed all of his government papers, according to three former officials with knowledge of the work.

Mr. Jacob spent the bulk of his final few days in government preparing the final boxes, with the goal of ensuring that Mr. Pence left office without a single paper that did not belong to him, one of the officials said.

It's hard to imagine these points being made without at least tacit awareness on Pence's part. 

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Holes in the Recession Story (JIM O'NEILL, 8/16/22, Project Syndicate)

The second reason for my skepticism about the prevailing narrative is that not all medium- and long-term indicators point to sustained higher inflation. The closely watched University of Michigan five-year inflation expectations index may have briefly risen above 3%, but it has since fallen back to 2.9%, suggesting that average consumers regard this year's huge surge in inflation as temporary. Yes, if you are on the Federal Reserve Board, it is far too early to be too confident in this finding. But if consumer sentiments do continue to ease in the coming months, I suspect that the Fed will become less hawkish.

Third, while many commodity prices remain significantly elevated from this time a year ago, they, too, have eased in recent weeks. Were they to remain relatively stable, headline inflation in many countries would start to fall - perhaps significantly. Interestingly, while the BOE's forecast of a recession and even higher inflation has gotten plenty of attention, few seem to have noticed that the central bank ultimately expects inflation to fall sharply from its anticipated higher peak throughout most of 2023.

Finally, in most investment-bank research notes nowadays, there is a strong assumption that central banks will vigorously fight any financial-market rally, because they cannot afford to let financial conditions ease in the current environment of low unemployment, upward wage pressures, and concerns about inflation. Yet while this has certainly been the message that one hears from central bankers, I tend to rely on the adage that, "If you can be sure of anything, it is that central bankers will at some point change their mind about the economic climate."

No one is clairvoyant. Recall that throughout 2020 and much of 2021, the consensus among central bankers was that inflation was transient. Though they have since changed their tune, it may turn out that they weren't entirely wrong after all.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'But Her Emails'--Trump's Dishonest WhataboutismSorry Professor Dershowitz, but comparing Trump's case to Hillary Clinton's doesn't make Trump look good. (You neither, for that matter.) (PHILIP ROTNER  AUGUST 16, 2022, Bulwark)

Berger admitted that he removed classified documents from the National Archives. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to a $50,000 fine and community service and lost his security clearance.

Clinton was subjected to a massive, far-reaching criminal investigation by the FBI and the Department of Justice. Much of the Clinton investigation took place on the public stage, and even though the FBI declined to recommend that criminal charges be brought against her, she was excoriated in a public FBI report that likely cost her the presidency in 2016.

Trump's situation is closer to Berger's than Clinton's. Trump, like Berger, is accused of stealing and carting away government property, including confidential information. Trump's situation, of course, is far worse, since Berger was never accused of refusing to return the documents once he was caught. (More on that in a moment.)

So, yes, there might be some semblance of equal treatment with Berger if Trump were to now plead guilty to a crime. (As an ex-president, he has no security clearance to lose.)

And "equal treatment" to Clinton might mean that Trump should now be subjected to a comprehensive criminal investigation into his mishandling of classified material, leading either to a felony indictment or a public excoriation, like Clinton.

But that's where the equivalency with Clinton ends.

Trump, unlike Clinton, is not merely accused of "mishandling" classified information--although he certainly did that--he is suspected of stealing it and, when caught, refusing to return it to the government. More specifically, Trump is suspected of removing storage boxes filled with government property (including classified, top secret / sensitive compartmented information) from the White House, storing it in his unsecured Mar-a-Lago residence, lying to the government about having returned all documents marked as classified, and refusing for months to return the stolen material despite both informal requests and formal subpoenas.

While much of Prof Dershowitz's conversion to Trumpism is explained by a shared opposition to Palestinian democracy, some of it seems certain to be tied to what Donald knows about their mutual pursuit of young girls.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Net zero, Russia war driving nascent hydrogen economy (AFP, August 15, 2022)

"Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the economics of green hydrogen have become increasingly attractive," Minh Khoi Le, head of hydrogen research at Rystad Energy, told AFP.

"Coupled with many incentives in the second half of 2022 globally, green hydrogen looks to satisfy the trilemma of the energy system: energy security, affordability, and sustainability."

Fallout from the war has caused the European Union to bolster its gas reserves by slashing consumption 15 percent.

The bloc is also seeking to significantly increase supplies of green hydrogen, which is made from water via electrolysis and with renewable energy.

Never waste a "crisis".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Defund the FBI" complicates GOP's midterm messaging (Andrew Solender & Alayna Treene, 8/16/22, Axios)

Republicans used the "defund the police" slogan after George Floyd's murder to paint the Democratic Party as radical. But since the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago, a growing number of GOP candidates and lawmakers are rallying around their own calls to defund or abolish federal law enforcement agencies.

To be a Trumpist is to channel Chesea Boudin. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Shelf Called Remember: How Frederick Buechner Built Up My Faith (Russell Moore, 8/15/22, CT)

But Buechner had more to say. "If we think the purpose of Jesus' stories is essentially to make a point as extractable as the moral at the end of a fable," he wrote, "then the inevitable conclusion is that once you get the point, you can throw the story itself away like the rind of an orange, when you have squeezed out the juice."

That's not how stories work, Buechner taught us. They're meant to involve us--not just with our minds but with our affections and emotions and intuitions too. And all that points us to Jesus himself, who is the Truth--"the whole story of him."

"So in the long run, the stories all overlap and mingle like searchlights in the dark. The stories Jesus tells are part of the story Jesus is, and not the other way round."

Thanks to another volume on that shelf--a collection of sermons called A Hungering Dark--I never say "Christ" without the word "Jesus." That's because Buechner knew the phrase "Christ saves" wouldn't make us nearly as uncomfortable as would the words "Jesus saves."

Those words "have a kind of objective theological ring to them," he wrote, "whereas 'Jesus saves' seems cringingly, painfully personal--somebody named Jesus, of all names, saving somebody named whatever your name happens to be."

First in the pulpit, then in that book, Buechner preached that what we accept or reject is not an abstraction but a person.

A few spaces down on the shelf is his Alphabet of Grace, which even now startles me into paying attention to the miracle of the ordinary:

You get married, a child is born or not born, in the middle of the night there is a knocking at the door, on the way home through the park you see a man feeding pigeons, all the tests come in negative and the doctor gives you back your life again: incident follows incident helter-skelter leading apparently nowhere, but then once in a while there is the suggestion of plot, the suggestion that, however clumsily, your life is trying to tell you something, to take you somewhere.

Those words would come to mind when I held my newborn son. They came to mind when I buried my father. They sometimes come to mind when nothing significant seems to be happening at all. And they also emerge in my thoughts alongside words from Now and Then, a book a few spaces down the shelf, reminding me there's nothing too commonplace for God. He's present in all of it.

"Listen to your life," writes Buechner. "See it for the fathomless mystery that it is in the boredom and the pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is a grace."

August 15, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM



For Bill Carmody the shock came just more than a year ago, on a cool November evening in the Piedmont. Carmody is the basketball coach at Northwestern, but he's known in coaching circles as the caretaker of the Princeton offense, the classic labyrinthine scheme he learned at the feet of Hall of Famer Pete Carril. On that night in Raleigh, Carmody and his assistants were astonished when they sat down to scout the second game of the Black Coaches Association Invitational. North Carolina State was using the Princeton offense. Their offense. Every bit of the breathtaking minuet: its backdoor cuts and dribble handoffs, its fade screens and wide-open layups. The Wolfpack had it down cold.

"Wow. They're running it," Carmody whispered, pen frozen in hand. "And they have the perfect guys to do it, skillful guys who can dribble and pass and shoot and cut."

But how did they get it? This wasn't something you could lift from a few viewings of videotape. And why now? For decades nobody had bothered to imitate Carril's offense. Oh, Princeton had its moments--winning the 1975 NIT, nearly upsetting Georgetown in the '89 NCAA tournament, knocking out defending national champion UCLA in '96--but most coaches derided Carril's slowdown style as little more than a gimmick. "People thought you couldn't teach it to athletic players. They wouldn't have the patience," says N.C. State associate head coach Larry Hunter. Even when Princeton's run to a No. 8 ranking in '98 sparked new levels of national interest, the Sons of Carril kept their secrets in the family. "It's hard to get in," says Campbell University coach Billy Lee, one of dozens who tried, "kind of like the Mafia."

Suddenly, though, the secret not only got out, but it morphed into a genuine basketball movement. The New Jersey Nets reached last year's NBA Finals using a faithful copy of the Princeton playbook. Likewise, that N.C. State team made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years, saving coach Herb Sendek's job. A high school outfit in Monument, Colo., Lewis-Palmer, had won 61 of its last 67 games through Sunday with the offense, while women's teams at Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Xavier were thriving under it too. At rural Gibson Southern High in Fort Branch, Ind., coach Jerry O'Brien puts his Titans through the Princeton paces, and even the district's sixth-graders run the offense. "It's good fundamental basketball," Nets coach Byron Scott says. "But it's different, and that's why it's special."

And it keeps spreading, not just through the NBA--in which the Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves also are employing Princeton concepts--but through every level of the game (map, pages 60-61). In addition to the programs run by coaches with ties to Carril (Princeton, Northwestern, Air Force), a growing number of Division I colleges have adopted the offense, from big-conference powers (N.C. State) to successful mid-majors (Miami of Ohio, George Mason, Samford) to smaller programs (Campbell, Eastern Washington, Western Carolina) hoping to ride it to the NCAA tournament. Why, even go-go Florida and Louisville, two of the nation's most explosive offensive teams, are running some of the trademark Princeton sets. 

Yet Carmody watched N.C. State that night in Raleigh with mixed emotions. On the one hand, here was a moment to enjoy the ultimate in professional respect--imitation, of course, being the sincerest form of flattery. Yet he was also stricken by a deep and abiding fear. After all, as the Princeton offense goes mainstream, won't defenses become more adept at stopping it? In the long run, won't its triumph, in a misdirection play worthy of the scheme itself, sow the seeds of its own demise? Ruin its novelty? Forever save defenses from death by a thousand cuts?

"I like seeing the Nets run this stuff," Carmody says, his Conan O'Brien features tightening with angst, "but in a perfect world I'd prefer that no one else did it."

This is a story about basketball, but it is also about innovation, human nature and the fanatical drive to attain--and sustain--a competitive advantage. Above all, this is the story of a philosophy and its wholly unexpected transformation into a burgeoning fad. How did the oldest of old school game plans, an arcane quirk shrouded in secrecy, turn into what the New York Daily News recently called the "trendy" Princeton offense?

Like the rise of fashion vogue and the movement of the latest flu virus, the spread of the Princeton offense is best viewed as a social epidemic. In his groundbreaking best-seller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes the three types of agents responsible for social epidemics: Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen. "In a social epidemic, Mavens are data banks. They provide the message," Gladwell writes. "Connectors are the social glue: They spread it. But there is also a select group of people--Salesmen--with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing."

For the Princeton offense to spread, it needed all three types: Mavens outside the Carril "family" to decipher and master every nuance of the scheme; Connectors to spread that knowledge to coaches across the country; and Salesmen to persuade the hoops cognoscenti that it could be successful at every level of the game, for high schoolers and pros, men and women, in up-tempo and slowdown attacks. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened.

Pete Carril was hired as a Sacramento Kings assistant


What is the Princeton offense? Master Yoda laughs. Pete Carril is 72 years old. His wispy white hair, throaty rasp and impish grin conspire to make him appear more gnomelike than ever. He's wearing a Kings sweatshirt--he has been an assistant for the team since 1996--and a baseball cap that reads yo! on the front. "I don't think it's that innovative," he says, all evidence to the contrary. "The basic difference [between this system and others] is that there's a greater use of cutting, and not much picking. It's supposed to take the tension out of a game, so five guys aren't just complaining about getting enough touches, all that bulls---. You know the ball's going to come to you at the right time. If you're not skillful you can't play in this offense, because everyone is the point guard. The minute you have the ball in your hand, you're expected to see what to do, to read the defense."

To hear Carril tell it, his offense is a hodgepodge of borrowed philosophies. When he began coaching at Easton (Pa.) High in 1952, his teams ran the five-man weave used by La Salle's Ken Loeffler and Villanova's Al Severance. "As it went on, we picked up things," Carril says. There was the shuffle cut run by Albany's Dick Sauers, the low-post elbow screen run by Red Auerbach's Boston Celtics ("Sam Jones hit so many bank shots coming off that elbow screen") and the dribble handoffs of Red Holzman's New York Knicks. From Butch van Breda Kolff, his predecessor at Princeton, Carril borrowed another touch, moving his center from the low post to the high post and clearing space in the lane for backdoor cuts.

Carril's genius was in the way he seamlessly linked all those sets, forcing opponents to pick their poison, like a soccer goalkeeper who has to move one way or the other when facing a penalty kick: Do you want to give up open outside shots, or do you want to defend the perimeter and be bamboozled by backdoor layups? Combined with Princeton's monotonous pace, the approach always gave Carril's teams, without the benefit of athletic scholarships, a chance to beat the best teams in college basketball. "Coach Carril has been very effective at choreographing sequential movement in ways that create counters to counters," says Gary Walters, the Princeton athletic director who played for Carril in high school. "When you defend one portion of the sequence, you set yourself up for having more trouble defending the next step."

The offense isn't for everyone, of course, particularly at a time when mastery of fundamentals has reached an alltime low. In its purest form, it requires a center who can shoot from the outside and deliver one-handed bounce passes on a dime to backdoor cutters. It requires an agile power forward who can cut, pass and shoot, since the offense makes no distinctions between its four nonpost players. Not least, it requires selfless players who can think. "It's very time consuming," Carmody says. "I don't spend any time in practice on defense. At all. Ever. But you're always guarding the other team in practice, so we get it done."

Over three decades and 525 wins, naturally, Carril realized there was treasure in the Princeton playbook, and he developed a pathological fear that rivals would steal his creation. Wasn't that why he had closed his practices all those years? Why, in a violation of coaching protocol, he often refused to exchange game tapes with other schools? Why, whenever another coach called to inquire about the offense, Carril would unleash a volley of invective ("Do what I did, and f------figure it out!") and hang up the phone?


The first outsider to infiltrate Princeton's inner circle was Jimmy Tillette. This was in 1996, when Tillette was an assistant at Samford, a Baptist college in Birmingham. An avowed egghead and lover of Beethoven, Chopin and Wagner--he named his son Tristan after the hero of Wagner's opera--Tillette is possessed of a relentless curiosity about all things hoops. In other words he's the perfect Maven. "I'm the only coach in Alabama who doesn't play golf," Tillette says. "I had to do something in the spring, and I always liked to take another team and figure out how they do what they do. So one spring I picked out Princeton." For weeks Tillette spent six hours a day poring over tapes, compiling 99 pages of notes and then distilling those into 35 laminated sheets.

When Princeton and Samford each appeared at the Iowa State Holiday Classic in December 1995, Tillette joined Carril and Carmody for dinner. Intrigued by Tillette's notebook, Carmody invited him to Princeton the following year, after Carmody had taken over for Carril. "Tillette was the guy we talked with a lot," Carmody says. "Every day I get four or five e-mails, phone calls or letters: Can you send me your offense? I just throw 'em in the garbage. I can't deal with that, because, you know ... do something. Work with it. That's what Jimmy did. He already knew the stuff, where to go and what to do, but he didn't quite get all of it. So he came up, and we spent a couple of days together."

The results were startling. In 1998-99, Tillette's second season as Samford's head coach, the Bulldogs went 24-6 and reached the NCAA tournament--a feat they had not accomplished in six years under Tillette's predecessor, John Brady, who had left for LSU. The next year Samford went 21-11, led the nation in field goal percentage (50.3) and made another trip to the NCAAs. "The concept is so solid," Tillette says. "You don't have to beat guys off the dribble or go one-on-one. It's a question of sharing the ball. Our assists-to-baskets ratio is out of sight. Three out of four baskets come off an assist." So dazzling was Samford that Carmody's brother Frank called him one night and said, "Hey, Billy, you ought to watch these guys: They're running it better than you are!"

Though Samford's surge drew some small-scale media attention, it hardly spurred a national wave of converts to the Princeton offense. Tillette simply honored Carmody's request to keep it in the family. At one point Tillette even rebuffed Birmingham Southern coach Duane Reboul, a friend of 40 years and his former boss at De La Salle High in New Orleans. "I'm very aware of my loyalty to Princeton," Tillette says. "If you want to watch practice and glean some things on your own, that's fine. But I'm not one for sharing."

To find a coach who is, you need to fly to Columbus, Ohio, rent a car and drive 90 minutes east, to the tiny, brick-paved burg of New Concord, proud home of Senator John Glenn and Division III Muskingum College.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Justice Department subpoenas former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann (BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, 08/15/2022, Politico)

A federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack has subpoenaed Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann for documents and testimony, according to a person familiar with the matter. [...]

During the tumultuous final weeks of Trump's term, Herschmann clashed with other aides and advisers who pushed the defeated president to fight the election results. He was also present for many of the most consequential meetings in that period of time. Among them was a high-stakes meeting where most of the Trump Justice Department's top brass threatened to resign rather than work under a colleague who wanted to advance spurious claims of widespread voter fraud.

Herschmann also sparred with Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn when they urged Trump to have the military seize voting machines. The Jan. 6 select committee has aired numerous portions of his testimony to their panel, which is blunt and sometimes darkly amusing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


China's Growth Slowed Across All Fronts in July, Prompting Unexpected Rate Cut (Jason Douglas, Aug. 15, 2022, WSJ)

China's economy stumbled in July as a two-month boost from easing lockdowns faded, prompting the country's central bank to unexpectedly cut two key interest rates in an effort to shore up faltering growth.

A raft of data released Monday showed economic activity slowed across the board in July, including factory output, investment, consumer spending, youth hiring and real estate, highlighting the breadth of the economic challenge facing policy makers in a politically sensitive year for leader Xi Jinping, who is expected to break with recent precedent and seek a third term in power this fall.

Economists say Monday's policy moves would probably do little to spur more borrowing by households and businesses who are on edge over the threat of fresh disruptions to daily life from any new Covid-19 outbreaks and gloomy about their prospects against a worsening backdrop for growth and jobs. [...]

The world's second-largest economy is straining under the effects of Beijing's zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19 and a deflating property bubble, which have triggered protests and mortgage-payment strikes in several provinces and cities. Consumers are reluctant to spend and businesses are wary of investing, a consequence of the "humongous uncertainty about the future," said Alicia García-Herrero, Asia-Pacific chief economist at investment bank Natixis in Hong Kong.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Giuliani Is Told He Is a Target of Trump Election Inquiry in Georgia (Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 15, 2022, NY Times)

The legal pressures on Donald J. Trump and his closest allies intensified further on Monday, as prosecutors informed his former personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Mr. Giuliani is a target of a wide-ranging criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia.

The notification came on the same day that a federal judge rejected efforts by another key Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, to avoid giving testimony before the special grand jury hearing evidence in the case in Atlanta.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


U.S. freight shipping rates have likely peaked, according to new Cass Freight Index data, in another sign that inflation is easing (Frank Holland, 8/15/22, CNBC)

U.S. freight rates increased 28% year over year, but declined almost 2% month over month in July, a likely signal that the U.S. market has reached peak freight rates, according to the July Cass Freight report, just as peak shipping season encompassing both back-to-school and the holidays begins.

"We're coming into this peak season with much more free capacity. I think that's going to be a good thing from a cost perspective for those big retailers who have been struggling with a lot of cost inflation," Cass Freight report researcher and author Tim Denoyer told CNBC.

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:00 PM

THE TRUMP BRAND (profanity alert)

Pennsylvania man arrested for threats against FBI after Mar-a-Lago search (Ryan J. Reilly, 8/15/22, NBC News)

A Pennsylvania man was arrested for making threats against the FBI on the right-wing social media website Gab after special agents searched former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate last week.

Adam Bies was charged with influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a federal law enforcement official after the social media exploitation team in the FBI's National Threat Operations Section referred a tip about a Gab post by the user "BlankFocus." The user, according to a FBI affidavit, posted that employees of the bureau deserved to die.

By their hysteria about the FBI shall you know them. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:14 AM


Trump 'gave Israel green light' to annex occupied West Bank (The New Arab, 15 August, 2022)

Former US President Donald Trump gave Israel a green light to annex large parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, days before announcing his controversial so-called 'Vision for Peace', according to a letter released by Israeli media.

The three-page letter dated 26 January 2020 sets out the Trump Administration's vision for the Palestinian territories which included Israel annexing large parts of the West Bank and leaving only slivers of land for a Palestinian state, sparking fury on the Arab street.

It would soon become US foreign policy when unveiled in the so-called 'Trump peace plan' two days later, which would see Israel take the Jordan Valley regions and annex illegal West Bank settlements.

The plan also demanded other huge sacrifices to Palestinian sovereignty such as giving Israel full control over its borders.

It coincided with a US-brokered normalisation push between Israel and some Arab states - the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republicans cannot shake their harmful Trump addiction (Dan Hannan, August 15, 2022, Washington Examiner)

Former President Donald Trump was painfully at odds with the philosophy of the GOP -- a party to which he had come late and opportunistically. Where his predecessors had sought to limit government, he liked to mobilize the full resources of the state against people who crossed him.

There was something unmanly about the way his erstwhile conservative critics rushed to abase themselves before him, abandoning their previous convictions and raging at the handful of Reaganite commentators who stuck to theirs. I continue to believe that, had the Republicans seized any of their numerous opportunities to ditch the Donald and replace him with former Vice President Mike Pence, they would now hold both Congress and the White House.

But I never gave up on the party itself. When I spoke privately to its leading figures, including several who in public went along with Trump's most boorish, cowardly, and self-centered pronouncements, I was reassured that they were still republican in the basic sense of recognizing that the republic is bigger than the people running it.

Now, I'm starting to wonder. Their response to the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago makes me doubt whether the party is still in any sense constitutionalist. Rallying to the defense of their caudillo, congressmen, Fox News anchors and talk show hosts are calling for the FBI to be defunded or disbanded. Conservative agitators strive to outdo one another in their outrage -- without, as far as I can tell, expressing any curiosity about whether Trump has in fact broken the law.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The New Right's Stasi Fantasy (MIKE GRILLO, AUGUST 15, 2022, Ordinary Times)

Outside of what he could do in four years (which most Republicans would have done anyway), he became a three-time loser. The GOP lost the House in 2018. Trump lost the 2020 election, and his stupefyingly ridiculous crusade to claim no one could trust the electoral process in Georgia cost Republicans the Senate. Do you want someone to blame for the American Rescue Plan and the lousy spending bill Democrats rammed through via reconciliation? Blame the former president.

Nearly every problem the man has is the result of a self-inflicted wound. I've lived across the Hudson River my entire life. I am old enough to have watched that charlatan rise through the ranks of the New York City elite in the early 1980s to the point where he became a pop culture sensation, meriting mentions on television shows and in the movies. He never cared about anyone or anything beyond himself. We're talking about a guy who created fictitious publicists (John Miller and John Barron) to promote himself. In the late 80s and early 90s, Trump wanted nothing more than to appear on Page 6 of the New York Post.

He's not a leader. Yet, some people out there behave as if they'd take a bullet for the guy. Would he do the same? Not a chance. He'd be Greg Stillson from The Dead Zone, holding up a baby in front of him for protection.

That's why the completely over-the-top freakout regarding Trump's Mar-A-Lago home getting searched by the FBI is so bizarre. The "new right," as I suppose it is called (it is almost entirely unconservative), has fully embraced the sentiment of Trump as the victim. Now, don't get me wrong. It is a compelling and intoxicating sentiment within a sizable portion of the GOP base, and that's why the outrage was at nuclear levels almost immediately after the news broke. Still, it is Trump who creates these conditions. He makes it happen. No one is out to get him. He is not a persecuted person trying to do the right thing. He gets himself into his legal troubles because he doesn't care about anything beyond himself, and when it comes apart, he chooses to blame everyone else.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


FBI and DHS warn of spike in threats to law enforcement after Trump search (Rebecca Falconer, 8/15/22, Axios)

Since the FBI searched Trump's Florida residence last Monday, threats have been coming in "primarily online and across multiple platforms," according to the bulletin, per Politico, CBS News and other outlets.

The FBI and DHS "have identified multiple articulated threats and calls for the targeted killing of judicial, law enforcement, and government officials associated with the Palm Beach search, including the federal judge who approved the Palm Beach search warrant," the bulletin said.

The agencies "observed an increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities," the agencies continued.

These include "a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters and issuing general calls for 'civil war' and 'armed rebellion,'" which included threats "specific in identifying proposed targets, tactics, or weaponry," the bulletin added.

Law enforcement is the terrorist's enemy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ten cities and towns are poised to ban fossil fuels from new buildings (Sabrina Shankman,  August 14, 2022, Boston Globe)

The small housing development just off Main Street in Concord is almost complete. Many of the neat one-, two- and three-bedroom homes are already occupied, and the rest have just a few plumbing and electrical jobs that need wrapping.

From the outside, this 14-unit development looks relatively unremarkable -- except for one key difference: there are no gas hookups, no oil or propane tanks. All the homes are completely fossil-fuel free.

In recent years, small developments such as Concord Millrun have cropped up in recognition that the climate crisis calls for radical changes in our use of fossil fuels. And now, a new climate bill signed last week by Governor Charlie Baker contains a provision that could change the landscape significantly: 10 communities in the state can participate in a pilot program that bans the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and major renovations. Where once they were the exception, in these 10 communities, fossil-fuel-free developments will become the rule.

And if the effort succeeds in those communities, advocates say, the rest of the state could eventually follow.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nearly all solar households want to add a battery, but costs still a concern (Sophie Vorrath, 8/15/22, Renew Economy)

Just one-fifth of Australian solar homes have battery storage, a new survey has found, but a massive 84 per cent of solar homes without a battery are looking to add one to the mix in the near future.

The Solar Citizens survey of 1,700 households nationwide finds that while the cost of a home battery is still considered a major barrier to uptake, a "significant 84 per cent" of rooftop solar owners are considering buying one in the next three years.

The apparent increase in interest in home battery storage comes as households on Australia's east coast start to see soaring wholesale energy market prices flow through to higher electricity and gas bills.

The survey numbers gel with recent reports from industry of a dramatic lift in customer interest in installing both solar and battery storage at the same time, as a sort of "insurance policy" against a grid supply still tethered to costly fossil fuels.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Shifting Explanations Follow a Familiar Playbook  (Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Maggie Haberman, 8/15/22, NY Times)

First he said that he was "working and cooperating with" government agents who he claimed had inappropriately entered his home. Then, when the government revealed that the F.B.I., during its search, had recovered nearly a dozen sets of documents that were marked classified, he suggested the agents had planted evidence.

Finally, his aides claimed he had a "standing order" to declassify documents that left the Oval Office for his residence, and that some of the material was protected by attorney-client and executive privilege.

Those are the ever-shifting explanations that former President Donald J. Trump and his aides have given regarding what F.B.I. agents found last week in a search of his residence at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Trump and his allies have cast the search as a partisan assault while amplifying conflicting arguments about the handling of sensitive documents and failing to answer a question at the center of the federal investigation: Why was he keeping documents, some still marked classified, at an unsecured Florida resort when officials had sought for a year to retrieve them?

The disciples have to check constantly to see which ludicrous defense to proffer as the last one gets kicked to the curb. 

August 14, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Fox News Host Floats Possibility Trump Tried to 'Sell' Classified Documents (JASON LEMON, 8/14/22, Newsweek)

In a Sunday Fox News broadcast, Shawn interviewed former intelligence officer and Russian expert Rebekah Koffler. At the start of the segment, the Fox News anchor raised questions about what Trump may have done with the classified materials.

Shawn, citing reports, said that intelligence officials reportedly feared "either the material was being mishandled or even possibly illegally others."

"And more questions are being raised this morning. Did former President Trump try to sell [or] share the highly classified material to the Russians or to the Saudis, or others? Or were the documents innocently mishandled and stored because he thought he had a legal right to have them?" the Fox News anchor asked.

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


No, Former Presidents Cannot Assert Executive Privilege. At Least Not Meaningfully. (Kel McClanahan and Mark J. Rozell, November 4, 2021, Lawfare)

There are three key reasons for this misconception. The first lies in the basic fact that the legal landscape in 2021 is different than the legal landscape in 1977. When the Supreme Court was adjudicating Nixon v. GSA, the Presidential Records Act did not exist yet. The Act now does exist, and it explicitly provides the incumbent president the decisive authority over whether the privilege will be asserted for the executive branch. Hence, President Biden's "authority is at its maximum" by acting pursuant to an express congressional authorization. And former President Trump's authority, if any, would be at the "lowest ebb" conceivable by asserting a claim that is incompatible with Congress's explicit act plus incompatible with the incumbent president's authority.

Second, the position of the incumbent president in Nixon v. GSA was substantially different from the position of the incumbent in Trump v. Thompson, and so was the nature of the challenge by the former president. The question before the court in 1977 was the constitutionality of a predecessor statute which required former President Nixon to transfer all his presidential records to the Archivist for review and cataloguing. The nature of the challenge proved critical in that case, because Nixon was not actively fighting against a particular disclosure; he was challenging the statute on its face. Therefore, while the court did opine that any interest Nixon might have in confidentiality was reduced by the fact that President Ford had signed the law and President Carter was defending the law, that statement was still made in the context of a facial challenge to a statute, not a request for a specific disclosure.

That fact distinguishes Nixon v. GSA from Trump v. Thompson. In the former, then-incumbent President Carter was arguing for the constitutionality of a statute on its face--a statute which included a nod to executive privilege. In the present case, President Biden has affirmatively and expressly waived executive privilege over the documents in question. Simply put, the two are not the same.

It is a legal truism that a legal privilege is held by the party to whom its benefit accrues. A client benefits from the attorney-client privilege because it allows the client to candidly seek and obtain legal advice. A patient benefits from the psychotherapist-patient privilege for much the same reason. With this in mind, it is clear that Nixon v. GSA already answered this question: "the privilege is not for the benefit of the President as an individual, but for the benefit of the Republic." In other words, it is a governmental privilege, not a personal privilege.

It naturally follows, then, that because the executive privilege is a governmental privilege, it can be expressly waived only by a representative of the government. Even if it may be asserted by a former president, it can be waived by the incumbent, and that waiver means that the information in question cannot be withheld from disclosure by any other interested party. Just as a former CEO lacks the legal authority to prohibit a corporation's in-house counsel from releasing information if the current CEO expressly waives the attorney-client privilege on behalf of the corporation, a former president lacks the legal authority to prohibit an executive branch official from releasing information if the incumbent president expressly waives the executive privilege on behalf of the executive branch.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Researchers develop new faster charging hydrogen fuel cell (Energy Daily,  Aug 15, 2022)

Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have developed a new method to improve solid-state hydrogen fuel cell charging times.

Hydrogen is gaining significant attention as an efficient way to store 'green energy' from renewables such as wind and solar. Compressed gas is the most common form of hydrogen storage, however it can also be stored in a liquid or solid state.

Dr Saidul Islam, from the University of Technology Sydney, said solid hydrogen storage, and in particular metal hydride, is attracting interest because it is safer, more compact, and lower cost than compressed gas or liquid, and it can reversibly absorb and release hydrogen.

"Metal hydride hydrogen storage technology is ideal for onsite hydrogen production from renewable electrolysis. It can store the hydrogen for extended periods and once needed, it can be converted as gas or a form of thermal or electric energy when converted through a fuel cell," said Dr Islam.

"Applications include hydrogen compressors, rechargeable batteries, heat pumps and heat storage, isotope separation and hydrogen purification. It can also be used to store hydrogen in space, to be used in satellites and other 'green' space technology," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 11:36 AM


As Trump Document Scandal Grows, His Allies 'Go Dark' And Pull Away (Meaghan Ellis, August 14 | 2022, National Memo)

Former President Donald Trump's allies are reportedly becoming more apprehensive about defending him in wake of the Federal Bureau of Investigations' (FBI) latest search warrant executed at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

On August 12, Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey appeared on MSNBC where he weighed in on the latest development.

"As people around him have learned more details about the extent of what he was keeping there, and the various efforts behind the scenes to get them, short of a search warrant, alarm has grown in recent days when you talk to advisers of the former president," Dawsey said during the Friday discussion.

He went on to suggest that he believes their decision to distance themselves from Trump may be a permanent one.

"Some of them are starting to go dark," he said adding, "and to stay as far away from this as they can."

Trump goes on Truth Social rampage, sharing over a dozen posts, including from accounts with QAnon references (Alia Shoaib, 8/14/22, Insider)

Along with several messages he wrote, Trump reposted over a dozen messages from supporters.

Some of the accounts he reposted had names with references to QAnon or the alt-right and pointed to debunked conspiracy theories about the FBI.

You know what they are by their continued defense. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Matt Yglesias should be a conservative (Tyler Cowen, August 14, 2022, Marginal Revolution)

"Conservative" isn't exactly the word I would use, but he chose it, so for now let's just run with that.  Here is an excerpt from Matt's Substack (do subscribe!):

In terms of Tyler's take, while I accept the logic of the view that it's better to tax consumption than to tax investment, I just don't buy into the idea that taxing investment is really bad. If I did, I would be a conservative like he is. But I don't. I also think that, frankly, he always holds Democratic bills to a super-high standard of technocratic rigor while setting a much lower bar for Republican ones -- to be generous, he maybe does that to counteract what he sees as a prevailing left bias of econ Twitter.

But to me, taxing investment with one hand while subsidizing investment with another is pretty good, especially paired with deficit reduction and permitting reforms.

Whether taxing investment at high rates is "bad," or "really bad," I am not sure.  But it is at least one of those. Let me lay out a core, simple case for relatively low rates of taxation on capital income.  One can slug it out with the models, but much of the case comes down to two core intuitions:

1. A lot of people are myopic.  That encourages too much consumption relative to investment.  Matt himself frequently cites examples of myopia, in this Substack post it is Doritos chips and also Instagram.

We are all Neoconomists now. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump lawyer told Justice Dept. that classified material had been returned, New York Times reports (Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, 8/13/22,  New York Times)

The written declaration was made after a visit June 3 to Mar-a-Lago by Jay I. Bratt, the top counterintelligence official in the Justice Department's national security division.

The existence of the signed declaration, which has not previously been reported, is a possible indication that Trump or his team were not fully forthcoming with federal investigators about the material. And it could help explain why a potential violation of a criminal statute related to obstruction was cited by the department as one basis for seeking the warrant used to carry out the daylong search of the former president's home Monday, an extraordinary step that generated political shock waves.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Now Hiring': US employers struggle to find enough workers (AFP, August 13, 2022)

Salespeople, food servers, postal workers --  "Help Wanted" ads are proliferating across the United States, as companies struggle to deal with a worker shortage caused by the pandemic, a rash of early retirements and restrictive immigration laws.

More than 10 million openings went unfilled in June, according to government data, while fewer than six million people were seeking work, even as employers desperately try to boost hiring amid a frenzy of consumer spending.

"We have a  lot of  jobs, but  not enough workers to fill them," the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents American companies, said in a statement.

All Joe had to do was not be Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. to pause oil, gas leasing on 2.2 million acres in Colorado over climate impact (Karen Graham, August 13, 2022, Digital Journal)

Under a legal settlement, the Bureau of Land Management has agreed not to issue any new oil and gas leases on 2.2 million acres of Colorado public land after environmental groups alleged its current management plan failed to consider climate impacts.

There's no point pretending you don't know the impact.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


There Is No MAGA Movement Without Threats and Violence (David French, Aug. 12th, 2022, The Atlantic)

Yesterday, my friend and Atlantic colleague Peter Wehner published an ominous and prescient piece that highlighted the extraordinary spike in violent rhetoric after the FBI search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. Later that morning, an armed man named Ricky Walter Shiffer tried to enter the FBI's Cincinnati office, an act that triggered a chase and a firefight that ultimately killed him. He had reportedly been at the Capitol on January 6.

While I monitored reports about the attack on the FBI, I also read that Temple Beth David had canceled its beachside Shabbat service after one of its congregants, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart--the judge who reportedly issued the Trump search warrant--faced an avalanche of online threats.

Keep in mind that the attack, the threats, and the violent rhetoric all happened without the perpetrators possessing any concrete knowledge of the underlying legal or evidentiary reasons for the FBI's search. The mere existence of the search was deemed sufficient reason for an instant, unified, volcanic right-wing response. And in the Trump era, pro-Trump threats and violence follow pro-Trump rage like night follows day.

August 13, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 PM


'It worried people all the time': How Trump's handling of secret documents led to the FBI's Mar-a-Lago search (Marc Caputo, Peter Nicholas, Carol E. Lee and Vaughn Hillyard, 8/13/22, NBC NEWS)

Trump's style of handling White House documents has been described by people who worked for him as slapdash and ad hoc, contributing to the debacle he now faces. He was known to rip up records that aides would have to retrieve from trash cans or from the floor and tape back together, according to former aides and multiple reports.

"It worried people all the time," John Bolton, one of Trump's former national security advisers, recalled in an interview.

"Trump had a habit of grabbing intelligence documents," said Bolton, who has been a sharp critic of the former president. "God knows what he did with it."

The criminal investigation into how sensitive records moved from the White House to Trump's beachfront club writes a new chapter of his political biography. It's a story of his impulsive instincts and disregard for established rules or norms that repeatedly created trouble for him in office and now may jeopardize the 2024 election bid that he could launch at any time.

Three separate criminal investigations swirl around the former president: the records case, the probe concerning his role in the attempt to overturn Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election, and his effort to nullify Biden's victory in Georgia, a crucial swing state.

In the run-up to Congress' certification of Biden's victory on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump acted as if he had won the election -- he hadn't -- and did little to ensure a smooth transition, according to the source familiar with Trump's move who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the records investigation. 

The source said that it was only after Jan. 6 -- two weeks before Biden's swearing-in -- that he began to make serious preparations to vacate the White House. And the process was a mess.

"It was a chaotic exit," this source said. "Everyone piled everything -- staff, the White House movers -- into the moving trucks. When they got to Mar-a-Lago, they piled everything there in this storage room, except for things like the first lady's clothes. Everything in a box went there."

"He didn't care. He didn't care about the boxes. He was in a dark place at the time, if you remember. He didn't even unpack things," the source continued. "Over time, the staff moved them back in. If you had brought him into that storeroom, and asked, 'Which are your presidential papers?' he couldn't tell you."

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


Synagogue of judge who approved Trump's search warrant cancels Shabbat service (Yonat Shimron, 8/12/22, RNS) 

Threats against the Florida judge who signed the warrant allowing the FBI to search former President Donald Trump's home earlier this week have led the synagogue where he is a member to cancel Friday's beachfront service.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart has been the subject of a massive right-wing social media attack after he signed off on a search warrant for Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate Friday (Aug. 5). The judge's address and other personal information were shared online, and threats on his life were made.

Reinhart is Jewish and a member of Temple Beth David in Palm Beach Gardens, a Conservative synagogue where he also serves on the board of trustees. [...]

The vitriol against Reinhart is part of an escalation of antisemitic animus propelled by Trump's fervent supporters. It comes on the fifth anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in which mostly white men staged a torch-lit march on the University of Virginia campus shouting "Jews will not replace us."  

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Republicans went crazy over the Trump search. Now they look idiotic. (Max Boot, August 12, 2022, Washington Post)

His followers -- which means pretty much the whole of the Republican Party -- took up the cry based on no more information than that. Fox News host Mark Levin called the search "the worst attack on this republic in modern history, period." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called it "corrupt & an abuse of power." Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) compared the FBI to "the Gestapo." Not to be outdone, former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Whackadoodle) said the FBI was the "American Stasi," and compared its agents to wolves "who want to eat you." "Today is war," declared Steven Crowder, a podcaster with a YouTube audience of 5.6 million people. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted "DEFUND THE FBI!" Former Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon, among many others, suggested that the FBI and the Justice Department ("essentially lawless criminal organizations") might have planted evidence. [...]

The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that the search was conducted by FBI agents "intentionally not wearing the blue wind breakers emblazoned with the agency's logo usually worn during searches." The club was closed, and Trump was not there. He was in New York, where he would plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination more than 400 times during a deposition with the New York attorney general. But according to Trump's lawyer, Trump and his family were able to watch the entire search on Mar-a-Lago's closed-circuit security cameras. So much for the crackpot claim that the FBI could have planted evidence!

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Swarms of Mini Robots Could Dig the Tunnels of the Future (CHRIS BARANIUK, AUG 11, 2022, Wired)

FOR DECADES, ENGINEERS seeking to build tunnels underground have relied on huge tube-like machines armed with a frightening array of cutting wheels at one end--blades that eat dirt for breakfast. These behemoths, called tunnel-boring machines, or TBMs, are expensive and often custom-built for each project, as were the TBMs used to excavate a path for London's recently opened Elizabeth Line railway. The machines deployed on that project weighed over 1,000 tons each and cut tunnels over 7 meters in diameter beneath the UK capital.

But British startup hyperTunnel has other ideas. The firm proposes a future in which much smaller, roughly 3-meter-long robots shaped like half-cylinders zoom about underground via predrilled pipes. These pipes, around 250 millimeters (10 inches) in diameter, would follow the outline of the proposed tunnel's walls. Once inside them, the bots would use a robotic arm topped with a milling head to penetrate into the surrounding earth and carve out small voids that would then get filled with concrete or some other strong material. Piece by piece like this, the structure of a new tunnel would come together.

"We're talking about thousands of them," says hyperTunnel's director of engineering, Patrick Lane-Nott. "Much like an ant colony or a termite colony works in swarms."

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


FBI investigating 'unprecedented' number of threats against bureau in wake of Mar-a-Lago search (Josh Campbell, Jessica Schneider, Donie O'Sullivan and Paul P. Murphy, August 12, 2022, CNN)

The FBI is investigating an "unprecedented" number of threats against bureau personnel and property in the wake of the search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, including some against agents listed in court records as being involved in the recent search, a law enforcement source tells CNN.

On Friday, the names of the two agents who signed the search warrant paperwork circulated online. The names had been included in a version of the search warrant that was leaked prior to the official unsealing of the documents. The version released by the court redacted the agents' names.

When the Trumpbots tell you who they are, believe them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM


National Archives counters Trump's baseless claims about Obama records (Boston Globe, August 12, 2022)

The National Archives and Records Administration issued a statement Friday in an attempt to counter misstatements about former president Barack Obama's presidential records after several days of misinformation that had been spread by former president Donald Trump and conservative commentators.

Since the FBI search of his Florida home and club this week for classified documents, Trump has asserted in social media posts that Obama "kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified" and that they were "taken to Chicago by President Obama."

In its statement, NARA said that it obtained "exclusive legal and physical custody" of Obama's records when he left office in 2017. It said that about 30 million pages of unclassified records were transferred to a NARA facility in the Chicago area and that they continue to be maintained "exclusively by NARA."

August 12, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 PM


The FBI found evidence at Mar-a-Lago that Team Trump can't ignore (Hayes Brown, 8/12/22, MSNBC)

Everything we've seen since Monday suggests that the usual attempts from Trumpworld to poison the well ahead of bad news haven't been working. There has been nothing that could counter the simple fact confirmed on Friday: Donald Trump is under federal criminal investigation.

Among the dodges Trump offered up Friday is that the material recovered "was all declassified." It's the same argument that former Trump appointee/stooge Kash Patel used in May. He told Breitbart that classified documents then-recently recovered from Mar-a-Lago had actually already been declassified. Trump "declassified whole sets of materials" before leaving the White House," Patel claimed, but, he said, White House counsel Pat Cipollone "failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn't mean the information wasn't declassified." (Experts think that it may mean exactly that -- and as NBC News reported on Friday, "the three laws cited in the search warrant do not specify that the mishandled documents had to have been classified.")

While Trump as president did have the authority to unilaterally declassify most items, there are some major exceptions to that rule, including those related to nuclear weapons. And on Thursday evening, The Washington Post issued a bombshell report alleging that among the documents the Department of Justice sought were "classified documents relating to nuclear weapons."

Attorney General Merrick Garland's announcement that the DOJ would move to unseal the warrant and receipt list had already rocked Republicans by undercutting their claims that the department wasn't being transparent. But The Washington Post's reporting prompted an almost eerie silence from the right on Twitter for hours Thursday night. When Trump attorney Christina Bobb was asked on Fox News about the report, she offered up a less-than-rock-solid defense. Bobb said that she had "not specifically spoken to the president about what nuclear materials may or may not have been in there. I do not believe there were any in there."

Her hesitancy became slightly more understandable Friday when the receipt list she'd signed Monday was unsealed. The three-page list does not detail the subject matter of the documents seized. Instead, it merely lists how many sets of documents were recovered at each of the four levels of classification -- confidential (3 sets), secret (3), top secret (4), and "various classified/TS/SCI documents" (1). (TS/SCI stands for "Top Secret/Secure Compartmentalized Information," meaning that access should only be available to specific officials with need-to-know clearance and viewed in highly secure environments.)

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


FBI search warrant shows Trump under investigation for potential obstruction of justice, Espionage Act violations (BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, KYLE CHENEY and NICHOLAS WU, 08/12/2022, Politico)

A search warrant newly unsealed on Friday reveals that the FBI is investigating Donald Trump for a potential violation of the Espionage Act and removed classified documents from the former president's Florida estate earlier this week.

A receipt accompanying the search warrant, viewed by POLITICO in advance of its unsealing, shows that Trump possessed documents including a handwritten note; documents marked with "TS/SCI," which indicates one of the highest levels of government classification; and another item labeled "Info re: President of France."

Also among the items taken from Mar-a-Lago this week: An item labeled "Executive grant of clemency re: Roger Jason Stone, Jr.," a reference to one of Trump's closest confidants who received a pardon in late 2020.

The warrant shows federal law enforcement was investigating Trump for removal or destruction of records, obstruction of justice and violating the Espionage Act -- which can encompass crimes beyond spying, such as the refusal to return national security documents upon request. Conviction under the statutes can result in imprisonment or fines.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Ikea and Electrify America team up to install over 200 public fast chargers in 18 states (Umar Shakir  Aug 12, 2022, The Verge)

Get ready for your shortest walk-through of an Ikea store yet because Electrify America is bringing its fast charging EV network to more than 25 Ikea locations in the US (via Electrek).

The plan includes installing more than 220 individual fast chargers capable of charging up to 350kW speeds at Ikea stores in 18 different states. The first public chargers will make an appearance by the end of the year and the rest by the end of 2023.

"This collaboration with Electrify America will not only bring ultra-fast public chargers to our stores for the first time but it will also help us take a big leap as we work towards our targets to become circular and climate positive," said Ikea US CEO Javier Quiñones. Ikea set that climate goal for 2030, but more ambitiously, the company plans to fully electrify its deliveries by 2025.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


FBI Recovered 11 Sets of Classified Documents in Trump Search, Inventory Shows (Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman,  Aug. 12, 2022, WSJ)

FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home Monday removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities, according to a search warrant released by a Florida court Friday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation agents took around 20 boxes of items, binders of photos, a handwritten note and the executive grant of clemency for Mr. Trump's ally Roger Stone, a list of items removed from the property shows. Also included in the list was information about the "President of France," according to the three-page list. The list is contained in a seven-page document that also includes the warrant to search the premises which was granted by a federal magistrate judge in Florida.

The list includes references to one set of documents marked as "Various classified/TS/SCI documents," an abbreviation that refers to top-secret/sensitive compartmented information. It also says agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents, and three sets of confidential documents.

He is who these guys always swore Hillary was.

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


Trump Org. can't shake Manhattan DA's criminal fraud case (JANAKI CHADHA, 08/12/2022, Politico)

The Trump Organization and former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg couldn't shake the Manhattan District Attorney's bombshell fraud case on Friday, as a New York judge nixed their bid to dismiss the case.

The decision caps off a stunning week for former President Donald Trump that included federal agents searching his Mar-a-Lago estate and a deposition with the New York Attorney General in which he pleaded the Fifth more than 400 times. [...]

On top of that, a civil suit by several people who say Trump Tower security roughed them up during a 2015 protest is slated for trial next month.

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Book a Trip on the New NYC to Burlington Train Route Before Everyone Else Does (TREVOR MORROW, 8/12/22, Inside Hook)

You can thank Amtrak for this addition to your repertoire of long-weekend trips. Specifically, the highly anticipated extension of their Ethan Allen Express line and brand new service from Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station in New York City direct to downtown Burlington, which just kicked off on July 29. The line, which used to terminate 70 miles south, and now includes stops in Vergennes and Middlebury on its way to Burlington, will take seven and a half hours for the full trip and run seven days a week. Plus, with tracks passing through the Hudson Valley and Vermont's Green Mountains, you'll be treated to some of the Northeast's best scenery along the way. 

The best part, of course, is not having to drive. That means you can use your time to read, work or imbibe with friends (the train's cafe serves booze) instead of concentrating on the road. Then there's the fact that you'll be choosing a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation. 

"Passenger rail travel offers beautiful scenery, relaxation, and spacious and comfortable seating -- and trains are nearly three times more energy efficient than automobiles," said Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn. "With today's traveler looking for more sustainable transportation options, the timing could not be better," added Jeff Lawson, director at Hello Burlington. And for Burlington, touting the train is directly connected to its ethos. The city is on track to become the first in the country to transition to 100% renewable energy and achieve its goal of net-zero energy by 2030. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Two local companies team up to pass clean energy test (Rick Shrum Jul 30, 2022, Observer-Reporter)

Two companies headquartered in Washington County have partnered on a project that could help lead to cleaner energy production in the Appalachian Basin.

Canton Township-based General Hydrogen Corp. and Long Ridge Energy of Southpointe announced jointly that they tested a new hydrogen-natural gas blending process, and passed with the proverbial flying colors.

"This is a great beginning to delivering a carbon-free future," said Sunny Punj, chief operating officer of General Hydrogen Corp., a division of CGI International LLC. The Canton location is off Henderson Avenue.

General Hydrogen's plant in Proctor, W.Va., is supplying hydrogen gas to a 485-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant owned by Long Ridge Energy. The Hannibal, Ohio, plant - which was commissioned in October - is the first GE H-class facility in the world in commercial operation that is including hydrogen in its fuel mix.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


How the four-day workweek could be another tool against global warming (Zeeshan Aleem, 8/10/22, MSNBC)

Compressing the workweek from five days to four days would dramatically improve the quality of life of workers while incentivizing them to get roughly the same amount of work done more efficiently. That's the standard argument for the idea, and it's one that's gaining increasing traction around the world as companies and governments experiment with shorter weeks through pilot programs.

But what's less commonly explored is how a four-day workweek could be good for the Earth. A fascinating new Washington Post analysis rounds up data suggesting that, if properly executed, a shorter workweek could also help reduce carbon emissions in substantial ways.

The Post report cites data from the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute showing that a 10% reduction in work hours could result in "drops in ecological footprint, carbon footprint and carbon dioxide emissions by 12.1%, 14.6% and 4.2%, respectively."

Experts say that one way a four-day workweek could reduce carbon emissions is by lopping off a day of commuting. According to a 2021 survey in the U.K. cited in the Post article, a four-day workweek could decrease travel by 691 million miles a week. A four-day workweek could also conserve energy by reducing energy required to power large office buildings and work sites.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Is the Republican Party Becoming the Sinn Féin of America? (Paul Miller, 8/11/22, The Dispatch.)

For decades, Sinn Féin, a political party in Northern Ireland, acted as the political arm of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), a terrorist group fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland. The two groups were formally separate but shared the same goals and, sometimes, overlapping membership. Sinn Féin pursued Irish irredentism through the political process, including by running for and winning seats in the British and Northern Irish parliaments. The IRA pursued the same goals through intimidation, assassination, and bombings. 

The arrangement gave Sinn Féin an edge in political bargaining. They could present themselves as relatively moderate compared to the murderers on their side. Sinn Féin could always argue that if it did not get its way, frustration would boil over and fuel the IRA's terrorist campaign. IRA violence hung like a Damocles' sword, an ever-present threat, a heckler's veto over northern Irish politics. If the political process didn't produce outcomes favorable to their cause, it could always pivot to terrorism. In exchange, Sinn Féin gave political representation and ideological legitimacy to the IRA. The Sinn Féin-IRA alliance enabled the republican side to have its cake and eat it too: I tried to play fair, but look what you made me do.

I am reminded of these dynamics when I observe the evolution of the Republican Party. For example, following the FBI's raid on Donald Trump's residence earlier this week, right-wing commentators exploded with threats of violence and predictions of civil war. Once beyond the pale, such rhetoric is now almost routine: Those giving it voice were refining a playbook increasingly deployed in the year and a half since the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Where's Cromwell when we need him.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


Solar plus storage: Hybrid renewables become new normal in US (Amalyah Hart,  12 August 2022, Renew Economy)

Last year was a bumper year for 'hybrid' power plants across the US, thanks to falling battery prices and the growth of varied renewable energy generation, according to a new report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

A hybrid plant is any power plant that combines either multiple different types of power generation (say wind and solar) or a combination of power generation and storage.

At the end of 2021 there were nearly 300 hybrid plants operating across the US, totalling nearly 36GW of generation capacity and 8.1GWh of energy storage, Berkeley says. That's up 74 plants from the previous year, 67 of which combined PV (photovoltaic) energy generation plus energy storage.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Trump Aides Quietly Warn That Worse Is Still To Come (Brandon Gage, August 12 | 2022, National Memo)

[A]ccording to New York Times correspondents Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess, and Glenn Thrush on Thursday, "some senior Republicans have been warned by allies of Mr. Trump not to continue to be aggressive in criticizing the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the matter because it is possible that more damaging information about Mr. Trump related to the search will eventually become public."

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 AM


Heat pumps: what they do and why they're hot now: The Verge's guide to heat pumps (Justine Calma, Aug 11, 2022, The Verge)

First off, the technology has improved. And that's made heat pumps seemingly ideal for grappling with several crises the world faces today.

Both the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's war in Ukraine have contributed to a global gas crunch. It's gotten much more expensive to heat your home with gas or rely on a gas-fired power plant to keep the lights on.

That energy crisis is really stark in Europe, where the cost of gas has risen from around $5 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) to $55 per MMBtu over the past couple of years alone. A big part of the problem is that Europe has historically been very reliant on Russia for its supply of natural gas. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the bloc has tried to quit that addiction -- and electric heat pumps are a big part of that plan. Gas is currently the fuel Europe uses the most for its heating, and much of that gas has historically come from Russia. The European Commission wants to double the rate at which it's deploying heat pumps, with a goal of deploying 10 million units over the next five years.

This is an acceleration of another transition that was already underway. One of the main strategies to slow climate change is to electrify everything -- from cars to buildings. That way, they can run on clean, renewable energy like wind and solar once those power sources displace fossil fuels on the grid. Some cities -- like Berkeley, California -- have even banned new gas hookups in homes and buildings.

Heat pumps became an obvious alternative to old-school gas and oil heating. So, efforts to promote heat pump adoption are peppered throughout a lot of proposed climate policies. The giant climate bill Democrats are working to pass, called the Inflation Reduction Act, for instance, includes up to an $8,000 rebate for income-eligible Americans who install a new heat pump in their home. Anyone who doesn't qualify for the rebate can still get a tax credit of up to $2,000 for installing a heat pump.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


FBI Standoff Suspect Posted 'Call to Arms' on Trump's Truth Social (Keegan Hamilton & Tess Owen, August 11, 2022, Vice News)
The gunman who fired at police and engaged in an hours-long standoff in a corn field after trying to enter the FBI's office in Cincinnati on Thursday has been identified in multiple media reports as someone who was present at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

The man also apparently left a trail of posts on Truth Social, the social media platform created by former president Donald Trump, announcing his plans to attack the FBI office and indicating that his actions were a direct response to the FBI's search Monday of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club. [...]

The 42-year-old Shiffer reportedly posted on Facebook on Jan. 5, 2021, showing him attending a pro-Trump rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington the night before the Capitol was stormed, according to the Times. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 AM


FBI searched Trump's home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say (Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Perry Stein and Shane Harris,  August 12, 2022, Washington Post)

Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump's Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands.

August 11, 2022

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Australia's oldest gas utility says 'switch to electric' (Sophie Vorrath, 11 August 2022, Renew Economy)

"Choosing to go all-electric can not only be cheaper but can also help reduce your CO2 emissions."

Who said it: Was it 'Electrify Everything' champion Saul Griffith, or the utility formerly known as the Australian Gas Light Company?

If you guessed Griffith, you are wrong.

On a page titled "How choosing electricity over gas can help you and the environment," AGL Energy details the bill and emissions savings households can make by switching from gas hot water to electric, from gas heating to electric, and from gas cooking to electric.

"While gas heaters can quickly warm up a room, they're becoming more expensive to run due to rising gas prices and inefficient technology in older models," the page says.

"Heat pump technology, on the other hand, can help reverse-cycle air conditioners turn one unit of thermal energy into three-to-six times as much heating or cooling energy, allowing them to operate at 300-600% efficiency.

"Unlike a gas heater, you get two functions out of one system. Plus, heat pumps can reduce your energy bill by a third of the cost of heating with gas."

On stoves, AGL says that while cooking with gas is quick, "two-thirds of the heat energy from your stove will end up in your room, not your pot.

"In fact, of all gas appliances in your home, cooktops are the most inefficient (generally achieving 30% efficiency)."

Of course, this is increasingly becoming common knowledge, thanks in no small part to the tireless work of people like Griffith, and energy efficiency advocate Tim Forcey, who tipped us off to AGL's updated view on gas in homes.

Demanding economic inefficiency for ideological reasons has been a losing hand since the Monolith first appeard.

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Taliban fighters swap arms for books as hundreds return to school (Emmanuel Peuchot and Abdullah Hasrat, 8/10/22, Digital AFP)

Gul Agha Jalali used to spend his nights planting bombs -- hoping to target an Afghan government soldier or, better still, a foreign serviceman.

These days, the 23-year-old Taliban member is studying English and has enrolled in a computer science course in the capital, Kabul.

"When our country was occupied by infidels, we needed bombs, mortars and guns," says Jalali, an employee at the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.

Now there is a greater need for education, he told AFP.

Since the Taliban swept back to power in August last year, hundreds of fighters have returned to school -- either on their own or pushed by their commanders. [...]

"The world is evolving, we need technology and development," said Jalali, who planted bombs for five years but is now among a dozen Taliban studying computers at the transport ministry.

The desire of fighters like Jalali to go back to school showed Afghans yearned for education, government spokesman Bilal Karimi said.

"Many motivated mujahideen who had not completed their studies reached out to educational institutions and are now studying their favourite courses," he told AFP.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


With Feds Circling, Trump Asks Allies: Who's 'Wearing a Wire'? (ASAWIN SUEBSAENG , 8/11/22, Rolling Stone)

Donald Trump is worried he may have a rat -- or multiple rats -- in his midst. He's wondering if his phones are tapped, or even if one of his buddies could be "wearing a wire."

As the federal and state investigations into Trump and his orbit swell, so have the former president's suspicions, according to two sources familiar with the matter and another two people close to the twice-impeached former Oval Office occupant. 

This summer, Trump has asked close associates if they think his communications are being monitored by the feds, or -- per his phrasing -- "by Biden." As a source close to Trump describes it to Rolling Stone: "He has asked me and others, 'Do you think our phones are tapped?' Given the sheer volume of investigations going on into the [former] president, I do not think he's assuming anything is outside the realm of possibility."

The source adds, "He's talked about this seriously [in the past few months], but I know of one time when he made a joke that was something like, 'Be careful what you say on the phone!'"

Moreover, on at least a couple occasions since May, the former president has wondered aloud if there were any Republicans visiting his clubs who could be "wearing a wire," according to another person close to Trump and a different source familiar with the matter.

Shocking, given the trustworthiness of his clique.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


How did Ukraine strike deep inside Russian-occupied Crimea? (Michael Weiss and James Rushton, August 10, 2022 Yahoo! News)

Photographs have gone viral of discombobulated Russian holiday makers scrambling out of their cabana on the beach against the backdrop of a huge, dark plume of smoke, as have videos of a miles-long traffic jam of vacationers hurrying back to Russia along the only bridge system connecting the country to Crimea.

In one video, a Russian woman weeps from the back seat of her car: "I don't want to leave Crimea. ... How cool it is here."

Even more delightful to Ukrainians is how Russian state media quickly dismissed the event, claiming the explosions were a result of "poor fire safety," an explanation that Ukraine's Ministry of Defense mocked by reiterating the "prohibition of smoking in unspecified places."

Moscow's denials that any aircraft were damaged in the subsequent fire also collapsed as quickly as Crimea's tourist season.

An Su-24 fighter bomber shown lying on a blackened tarmac on Tuesday was clearly destroyed. And satellite imagery now confirms the extent of the devastation, which may be even greater than what Ukraine's Air Force assessed. The base is littered with the burned-out husks of 15 to 20 costly Russian aircraft.

Saki Air Base was constructed in typical Soviet style, with hardened ammunition bunkers and blast-protected parking for each aircraft. The purpose of such measures was to minimize the effect of either an enemy attack or the kind of accident the Kremlin says just occurred. Yet satellite images of the base taken just days earlier show many of the blast-protected hardstands not being used. A number of Russian warplanes were simply parked next to one another on the airport's apron.

A senior Ukrainian Ministry of Defense official confirmed Kyiv's responsibility to Yahoo News within hours of the attack. "It's just getting warmed up," he said, indicating that more operations like this one are in the offing. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


FBI Quest for Trump Documents Started With Breezy Chats, Tour of a Crowded Closet (Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman, Aug. 10, 2022, WSJ)

Around lunchtime on June 3, a senior Justice Department national security supervisor and three FBI agents arrived at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Florida to discuss boxes with government records sitting in a basement storage room along with suits, sweaters and golf shoes.

A few days later, the FBI sent a note asking that a stronger lock be installed on the storage room door, signing off: "Thank you. Very truly yours, Jay Bratt, chief of counterintelligence and export control section."

In the following weeks, however, someone familiar with the stored papers told investigators there may be still more classified documents at the private club after the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes earlier in the year, people familiar with the matter said. And Justice Department officials had doubts that the Trump team was being truthful regarding what material remained at the property, one person said. Newsweek earlier reported on the source of the FBI's information.

Two months later, two dozen Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were back at Mar-a-Lago with a warrant predicated on convincing a federal magistrate judge that there was evidence a crime may have been committed. After hours at the property, the agents took the boxes away in a Ryder truck.

Many elements of what happened between those events--one seemingly cordial, the other unheard of--remain unknown. But the episode points to a sharp escalation in the Justice Department's inquiry into Mr. Trump, which also includes an investigation into the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the Capitol.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


FBI director Wray denounces violent threats following search of Trump's home (MARGERY A. BECK, 8/11/22, Times of Israel)

Threats and calls to arms have been widespread in the corners of the internet favored by right-wing extremists since Trump himself announced the search of his Florida home. Reactions included the ubiquitous "Lock and load" and calls for federal agents and even US Attorney General Merrick Garland to be assassinated.

On Gab -- a social media site popular with white supremacists and antisemites -- one poster going by the name of Stephen said he was awaiting "the call" to mount an armed revolution.

"All it takes is one call. And millions will arm up and take back this country. It will be over in less than 2 weeks," the post said.

As with ISIS, the hard part is to get them to gather in one place so you can slaughter them. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


Satellite images show Russian warplanes destroyed in Crimea; Moscow's military exports under strain (Natasha Turak, 8/12/22, CNBC)

Satellite imagery from U.S.-based Planet Labs shows at least eight Russian warplanes damaged or destroyed from massive explosions that took place on Tuesday at Russia's Saky airbase in Crimea.

The Kremlin has denied that any planes were damaged in the blasts that it says killed one person, injured 14 more and damaged nearby houses. [...]

Russia's arms industry is a major export sector for the country, but it's now likely to face problems in fulfilling some of its orders because of the strain on capacity from the war in Ukraine, Britain's Ministry of Defense wrote in its daily intelligence briefing on Twitter.

"Russia is highly unlikely to be capable of fulfilling some export orders for armoured fighting vehicles because of the exceptional demand for vehicles for Russia's own forces in Ukraine, and the increasing effect of Western sanctions," the ministry wrote.

Its "military industrial capacity is now under significant strain, and the credibility of many of its weapon systems has been undermined by their association with Russian forces' poor performance in the Ukraine war," the post added.

It's not that there are no alternatives to Liberalism, just that none of them work. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM


Inflation Reduction Act unlikely to have much effect on inflation, analysts say (Jim Puzzanghera, August 10, 2022, Boston Globe).

 Economic analyses have found its cost savings and modest deficit reduction will have little immediate impact on the nation's alarmingly high inflation rate, and make just a marginal difference longer term.

August 10, 2022

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International economists ask Biden to release Afghan central bank funds (Charlotte Greenfield, 8/10/22, Reuters) 

More than 70 economists and experts, including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, called for Washington and other nations to release Afghanistan's central bank assets in a letter sent to U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Why Scott Perry stands out in the FBI's investigations of Trump allies (NICHOLAS WU and KYLE CHENEY, 08/10/2022, Politico)

Elevating Jeffrey Clark

Testimony released through the Senate Judiciary Committee and Jan. 6 select committee's investigation shows Perry pushed for Jeffrey Clark -- who, at the time, was a little-known Justice Department official -- to helm the agency in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Trump's allies saw Clark as more sympathetic to investigations of baseless claims of voter fraud, and Clark was preparing to tee up an official DOJ letter urging states to reconvene their legislatures and consider overturning the certified election results.

Investigators have shown that Perry helped introduce Clark to Trump and his allies. Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue told lawmakers that Perry said in a meeting "something to the effect of 'I think Jeff Clark is great, and I think he's the kind of guy who could get in there and do something about this stuff.' And this was coming on the heels of the president having mentioned Mr. Clark in the afternoon call earlier that day."

Visitor records released by the select panel showed Perry brought Clark to the White House on Dec. 22, 2020, and helped introduce him to Trump.

And in texts released by the select panel, Perry expressed urgency to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to elevate Clark.

"Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down. 11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!" Perry wrote in a Dec. 26, 2020, text, adding later, "Mark, you should call Jeff."

Trump came within an eyelash of dismissing DOJ's leadership and installing Clark in the days before Jan. 6, relenting only when senior leaders in the White House and Justice Department threatened to resign en masse.

Encrypted messages with Meadows

In the same Dec. 26, 2020, text exchange, Perry said he'd sent Meadows a message using the encrypted messaging service called Signal and asked: "Did you call Jeff Clark?" It's unclear if either man retained their Signal chats, though the National Archives has previously acknowledged Meadows may not have "properly" stored all of his records from his phone and email account.

The Jan. 6 select panel also received testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Meadows, that she heard that the chief of staff burned papers in his office after meeting in the White House with Perry, though the substance of what was in those papers are unclear.

Planning Trump's Jan. 6 strategy

Perry also took part in a Dec. 21, 2020, meeting at the White House with lawmakers in the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, which Perry chairs, during which they discussed strategies to block or delay certification of Joe Biden's victory on Jan. 6. They particularly focused on then-Vice President Mike Pence's role presiding over the counting of electoral votes.

Hutchinson recalled White House lawyers being present and "pushing back on" plans floated by Perry and other Trump allies for Pence to reject Biden's electors on Jan. 6 -- with the goal being to kick the election back to state legislatures to appoint their own pro-Trump electors. White House lawyers didn't think the plan was "legally sound," Hutchinson testified.

Taking Trump to the Capitol on Jan. 6

Testimony from Hutchinson also revealed plans for Trump to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6 -- and Meadows and Perry discussing that proposal.

"I remember hearing a few different ideas discussed with -- between Mark [Meadows] and Scott Perry, Mark and Rudy Giuliani," Hutchinson told lawmakers. "I don't know which conversations were elevated to the president. I don't know what he personally wanted to do when he went up to the Capitol that day."

Hutchinson similarly told the select committee that Perry had been supportive of floated plans to call on Trump supporters to march on the Capitol.

Pardon request

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Perry was one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who discussed the possibility of pardons from Trump, according to Hutchinson. None of them ultimately received pardons.

"Mr. Perry asked for a pardon, too," Hutchinson told lawmakers, adding that he talked to her directly.

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Exclusive: An Informer Told the FBI What Docs Trump Was Hiding, and Where (WILLIAM M. ARKIN, 8/10/22, nEWSWEEK)

The raid on Mar-a-Lago was based largely on information from an FBI confidential human source, one who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding and even the location of those documents, two senior government officials told Newsweek.

The officials, who have direct knowledge of the FBI's deliberations and were granted anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters, said the raid of Donald Trump's Florida residence was deliberately timed to occur when the former president was away.

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Inflation drops to zero in July due to falling gas prices (Neil Irwin, 8/10/22, aXIOS)

Why it matters: Falling gasoline prices are clearly giving American consumers some inflation relief, and the broader inflation picture was more favorable in July than economists had expected.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Falling prices online and at the pump fuel hopes for inflation-ravaged economy (SAM SUTTON and VICTORIA GUIDA, 08/10/2022, Politico)

The Biden administration on Tuesday got some much-needed good news on inflation: Online consumer prices dropped in July -- the first time in more than two years that's happened.

It's another early sign that the white-hot inflation that has plagued the economy for more than a year could be abating as the Federal Reserve aggressively raises interest rates. Gas prices have dropped for eight straight weeks. Key commodities costs have eased. Walmart and other giant retailers are slashing prices. And even consumers are telling the Fed that their long-term fears of inflation are subsiding.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mar-a-Lago search sparks questions about Trump's potential legal peril (Tal Kopan,  August 9, 2022, Boston Globe)

 The FBI search of former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort has triggered a host of questions with potentially serious legal implications for Trump, legal experts said on Tuesday.

Much is still unknown about what Trump termed a "raid" on his residence, which is part of a federal investigation into whether he improperly took classified materials with him when he left the White House. But the decision to take the unprecedented step of searching an ex-president's home would likely have required the sign off of top officials including Attorney General Merrick Garland as well as a federal judge, and would not have been taken lightly, former prosecutors said.

"These are very careful lawyers who would not take a monumental step like this without carefully thinking through both the legal and political consequences," said Howard Sklamberg, a former Department of Justice official who prosecuted former Clinton administration National Security Adviser Sandy Berger for sneaking copies of highly classified documents out of the National Archives. Berger ultimately pleaded guilty and was fined $50,000 and given two years' probation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Taliban torn over reforms one year after seizing power (Emma Clark, Abdullah Hasrat and Javed Tanveer, 8/09/22, AFP)

One year on from the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan, some cracks are opening within their ranks over the crucial question of just how much reform their leaders can tolerate. [...]

Officials in Kabul have embraced technology, while cricket matches are cheered in full stadiums.

Televisions were banned under the Taliban government's first incarnation, while Afghans now have access to the internet and social media.

Girls are allowed to attend primary school and women journalists are interviewing government officials -- unthinkable during the Taliban's first stint in power in the 1990s.

The group's hardline core, composed of battle-hardened veteran fighters, is against any significant ideological change that could be viewed as a sign of capitulation to their enemies in the West. 

"You have one (Taliban) camp, which is pushing ahead with what they're seeing as reforms, and another camp that seems to think even these meagre reforms are too much," said Ibraheem Bahiss, an Afghanistan analyst with International Crisis Group.

The United States and its allies -- which had bankrolled Afghanistan for 20 years -- have locked the country out of the global banking system and billions in frozen assets abroad, as they hold out for reforms from the Taliban.

Without significant progress, it is the Afghan people who suffer as the country reels under a massive economic crisis that has seen some families choose between selling their organs or their infant daughters.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'America's Philosopher' Review: The Key to John LockeThe political thinker who mattered most to a revolutionary generation spoke in a language they had no difficulty understanding (Barton Swaim, Aug. 5, 2022, WSJ)

One thing is clear early on in Ms. Arcenas's story: Americans really did read and admire Locke. But his popularity in the New World derived initially, in the early and mid-18th century, from the "Essay Concerning Human Understanding." In that work--a much heftier one than the slim "Two Treatises," running to 500 or 600 pages in modern editions--Locke denied the existence of "innate" ideas; the mind at birth, he held, was a blank slate, and all human knowledge was gained through experience and observation. "At Harvard," Ms. Arcenas finds, "Locke's Essay was read and taught by individual tutors decades before the faculty voted in 1743 to include it as part of the formal curriculum."  [...]

Why the craze for Locke in 18th-century America? Here Ms. Arcenas, a professor of history at the University of Montana, is unhelpful. "America's Philosopher" appears to be a version of the author's doctoral dissertation, and perhaps for that reason she offers complicated interpretations when simple ones would do. On the matter of Americans' reverence for Locke, she begs the question. Locke was treated as an authority because he was recognized as a man of "clear reasoning and honesty" and because he had a reputation as an "educational and childrearing guru." He was treated with reverence because he was revered.

But the reasons for Locke's popularity in Revolutionary America aren't hard to divine. One is that he was Protestant. His religious views may have been heterodox in some respects, but he openly avowed his Protestant faith, and there is no reason to believe--as modern scholars, projecting their own areligious attitudes onto Locke, have often done--that those avowals were insincere. Revolutionary-era Americans would have associated Locke with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the ascendant Protestant king, William of Orange: The philosopher had been exiled by the quasi-Catholic monarch Charles II in 1683, and the preface of the "Two Treatises" claimed that the book vindicated William's legitimacy. All this would have made Locke highly acceptable to the overwhelmingly Protestant reading audience of 18th-century America.

The other reason Americans loved their Locke is even more obvious: His ideas accorded with their own. The "Letter Concerning Toleration" envisions something like the kind of Protestant pluralism Americans would create for themselves in the Constitution. The "Two Treatises" posited a just republic based on consent and conceded the right of the people to overthrow a tyrannical government and form a more just one. And the "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" implied a fundamental equality between farmer and noble, shoemaker and statesman.  

August 9, 2022

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Trump tax returns must be given to Congress, federal appeals court says in new ruling (Dan Mangan, 8/09/22, CNBC)

Former President Donald Trump's federal income tax returns and those of Trump business entities must be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee, a federal appeals court panel said in a ruling Tuesday.

The 3-0 decision is the latest legal blow to Trump, who has repeatedly lost efforts in federal and state courts to shield his closely guarded tax returns and business-related documents from various investigations. Trump has argued that all of those probes are politically motivated.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


The Bacteria Powering a Truly Green Revolution in Personal Electronics (Sensor Technology Research, 8/05/22) 

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently announced that they have figured out how to engineer a biofilm that harvests the energy in evaporation and converts it to electricity. This biofilm, which was announced in Nature Communications, has the potential to revolutionize the world of wearable electronics, powering everything from personal medical sensors to personal electronics.
"This is a very exciting technology," says Xiaomeng Liu, graduate student in electrical and computer engineering in UMass Amherst's College of Engineering and the paper's lead author. "It is real green energy, and unlike other so-called 'green-energy' sources, its production is totally green."
That's because this biofilm--a thin sheet of bacterial cells about the thickness of a sheet of paper--is produced naturally by an engineered version of the bacteria Geobacter sulfurreducens. G. sulfurreducens is known to produce electricity and has been used previously in "microbial batteries" to power electrical devices. But such batteries require that G. sulfurreducens is properly cared for and fed a constant diet. By contrast, this new biofilm, which can supply as much, if not more, energy than a comparably sized battery, works, and works continuously, because it is dead. And because it's dead, it doesn't need to be fed.

"It's much more efficient," says Derek Lovley, Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at UMass Amherst and one of the paper's senior authors. "We've simplified the process of generating electricity by radically cutting back on the amount of processing needed. We sustainably grow the cells in a biofilm, and then use that agglomeration of cells. This cuts the energy inputs, makes everything simpler and widens the potential applications."
The secret behind this new biofilm is that it makes energy from the moisture on your skin.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


What Would You Do For a Klondike Bar? (Jon Murphy, 8/07/22, EconLib)

Firms, just like all economic actors, face scarcity.  They only have so many resources (labor, capital, etc.) and they need to decide how to deploy those resources in the most effective manner.  When resources are used to produce one item, they cannot be used to produce a different item.  Thus, we have the economic understanding of cost: whatever you must give up in order to take an action is the cost.  If Klondike wishes to produce a Choco Taco, the cost of the Choco Taco is the monetary price of the inputs plus whatever product could have been produced with those inputs instead.  In other words, if Klondike has to choose between the Choco Taco or a Klondike Bar, the cost of producing the Choco Taco is the price of inputs plus one Klondike bar.

The economic understanding of costs as including what one has to give up helps us understand another key economic concept: economic profit.  When people hear the word "profit," they tend to think of accounting profit: monetary revenue minus monetary costs.  But economics have a broader conception of profit.  Economic profit is total revenue minus total costs.  The Klondike Bar in the example above is included in "total costs" for a Choco Taco.  If the cost of a Klondike Bar (measured by the foregone revenue of the Klondike Bar if it was produced instead of the Choco Taco) was sufficiently high, then the Choco Taco could have negative profits.

Indeed, it appears this is the case given Klondike's statement:  As demand spiked for all of their goods, the cost of the Choco Taco rose: other goods, potentially earning higher revenue, were sacrificed to produce a Choco Taco.  In order to maximize their profit, Klondike decided to discontinue the Choco Taco.  Even though the Choco Taco was earning accounting profit, the economic profit turned negative.  The company could increase their profit by allocating resources to the marginally more profitable items.  As my friend and co-author Nathan Goodman quipped to me: "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?  Shift scarce resources away from production of the Choco Taco, apparently."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Dark matter: An invisible glue that may not even exist (Deutsche-Welle, 8/09/22)

It has never been detected, only speculated. But scientists estimate that up to 85% of the matter in the universe could be made of what's called dark matter.

Scientists cannot define dark matter with any certainty, but that hasn't stopped the search for it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sanctions-Hit Russia Starts Stripping Aircraft for Parts - Reuters (Moscow Times, Aug. 9th, 2022)

Russia's 2030 aviation industry strategy envisions the "partial dismantling" of a portion of foreign-made aircraft to keep two-thirds of the country's fleet airworthy until 2025.

At least one almost brand new Airbus A350 and the Russian-built Sukhoi Superjet 100 are grounded and being disassembled, Reuters cited one source as saying. 

Equipment from some of Aeroflot's Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s is also being taken to keep other planes airworthy. 

Always fun when the Right/Left pretends it's a multi-polar world.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How working on the 'CHIPS' bill made Gina Raimondo a favorite Cabinet secretary on Capitol Hill (Tal Kopan,  August 8, 2022, Boston Globe)

[I]n a deeply divided and partisan Washington, Raimondo is the rare politician who draws high praise from such disparate sources as conservative Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and progressive "Squad" member and Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib.

"Gina Raimondo might be the best appointment Joe Biden has made during his time in office," Wicker said.

"I've never had a secretary this transparent," said Tlaib.

Top congressional players on the bill touted Raimondo's bipartisan and business sensibilities as a former venture capital executive, saying they were crucial in the negotiations on the legislation, which is designed to alleviate the nation's supply chain issues by spurring semiconductor manufacturers to build factories in the United States.

She should have been the VP pick as she's nearly the only one in the Administration capable of governing the country.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jews, Christians and the New Testament: Both Jews and Christians need to understand in a profound way that there is no Christianity in the New Testament. (Faydra L. Shapiro, AUG 3, 2022, Times of Israel)

It wasn't my first time opening a New Testament, but certainly my first time reading it all through, slowly, together with a large stack of secondary literature. And so began the real shock - I absolutely loved it.

Jews don't read the New Testament. It's not just that it's not part of the Jewish Bible (it isn't). And it's not just that Jews don't accept it as authoritative (we don't). It's that we don't think that it has anything to do with us. We tend to believe that the New Testament belongs to Christians, and that's that. So unless you're a scholar, Israeli tour guide or someone particularly interested in world religions, Jews just don't read the New Testament. Ever. It kind of scares us, frankly. As if somehow reading it is traitorous, or it might magically turn us into Christians.

I wish that Jews could understand that the New Testament is thoroughly Jewish - replete with Jewish categories and Jewish practices, full of Jewish controversies and Jewish scripture, brimming with Jews - I think we could both reclaim some of our own history. Because let's face it, if you want to understand something about the Judaism of our ancestors in this specific period, the New Testament has some real value. And if Jews could feel more comfortable with the New Testament as comprising an important piece of Jewish cultural literature, we might be able to engage more deeply together as Jews and Christians.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Baby bust: China's looming demographic disaster (Rana Mitter, 6 August 2022, Spectator)

China's dominance is inexorably linked to the size of its population. It has long been the world's most populous country. A technologically advanced society, with a great army of young workers and soldiers, is inevitably a power to be reckoned with. Only three years ago the UN predicted that in a decade China would reach a population peak of 1.46 billion. But what if these forecasts are dramatically wrong? What if China's sabre-rattling masks a fear of a demographic collapse - a baby bust?

According to a new UN report, China's population growth has collapsed by 94 per cent, from eight million a decade ago to just 480,000 last year. What's particularly worrying for Chinese leaders is that this means a rapid reduction in the working population. The previous set of projected figures suggested that by the year 2100, China's 15- to 64-year-old population would be 579 million. This has now been revised down to 378 million, a 35 per cent fall. If this prediction plays out, the implications for China - and the rest of the world - could be brutal.

The hordes are not coming...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Another Gaza conflict, but with a difference: Hamas sat it out. (Patrick Kingsley, 8/08/22,  New York Times)

Hamas is still a military force that opposes Israel's existence and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the United States. But unlike Islamic Jihad, it is also a ruling administration and a social movement. Though authoritarian, Hamas is sensitive to public opinion in the enclave and must also deal, if only indirectly, with Israel to assuage the most restrictive aspects of a 15-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade that was enforced after the group took power and has decimated living conditions in Gaza.

By holding fire over the weekend, Hamas showed sensitivity to Palestinian fatigue at the prospect of yet another confrontation with Israel, at least the sixth during Hamas's tenure. It also suggested that Hamas was wary of losing several small but significant economic measures that Israel has offered Gaza since the last major confrontation in May 2021, including 14,000 Israeli work permits that boosted the strip's economy.

In a briefing for reporters Monday, a senior Israeli official, speaking anonymously to discuss the issue more freely, said the Israeli policy of offering more work permits over the past year had played a significant role in keeping Hamas away from this round of fighting. The official said this would encourage Israel to step up the approach in the future.

Hamas is not a terrorist organization.

August 8, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 PM


The FBI Just Raided Trump's Mar-a-Lago Home (Paul Blest, August 8, 2022, 7Vice News)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation searched former President Donald Trump's home on Monday, the former president confirmed in a statement. 

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Gun makers appeal to masculinity, supremacist groups to sell guns: Report (Ivana Saric, 8/08/22, Axios)

According to company materials, the gun manufacturers target young men by marketing guns in a way that appeals to consumers' masculinity. One ad suggested that buying AR-15 would ensure "your status at the top of the testosterone food chain."

"The firearm industry has been marketing directly and indirectly to white supremacist and extremist organizations for years, playing on fears of government repression against gun owners and fomenting racial tensions," the report stated, noting gun makers used symbols and names in their marketing materials that nodded to white supremacist organizations.

According to the report, the five gun makers being investigated "do not have any systems in place to monitor and analyze" the deaths, injuries and crimes associated with their products.

You can never go wrong assuming the Right is driven by doubts about their own maleness. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


New Data Suggests Our Fundamental Model of the Universe Is Wrong, And Scientists Are Racing to Solve It (Becky Ferreira, August 8, 2022, Vice News)

Scientists are now especially preoccupied with intractable tensions that have emerged from different measurements of two cosmic properties: The rate at which our universe is expanding, known as the Hubble constant (Ho), and a value called sigma-8 (σ8), which describes variations in how matter clumps together across large cosmic scales.

Efforts to measure these properties in space have puzzlingly returned different values. When the Hubble constant is measured based on observations of brilliant stars that act as yardsticks in space, its speed is clocked as about 50,400 miles per hour per million light years. However, when it is measured using the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the oldest light in the universe, it is 46,200 miles per hour per million light years. Meanwhile, the value of sigma-8 is different when measured using the CMB, compared to other observational techniques.

What this means, essentially, is that there may be a potentially serious flaw in our basic understanding of the universe and the fabric of reality. In response, scientists around the world are now trying to resolve these tensions. 

Reality is whatever we want it to be. 
Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Has the Biden economic agenda been Up Wing or Down Wing? (James Pethokoukis, 8/08/22, Faster, Please)

Here's why I'm being a bit fuzzy on the numbers: Various last-minute tweaks mean the exact legislation has yet to be officially scored by the Congressional Budget Office. That said, concludes a Goldman Sachs analysis yesterday, "The net fiscal impact of these policies continues to look very modest, likely less than 0.1% of GDP for the next several years."

Indeed, one political criticism is that passage of the bill is unlikely to "help Democrats much in November because it will provide little in tangible benefits for voters in the near term and does little to address their leading concerns (inflation, crime, border security, etc.)," argues the policy analysis team at Piper Sandler in a morning note. [...]

🔃 Inflation Reduction Act. Rising prices may slow in the coming weeks and months. But that is likely more due to falling gas prices than anything in this bill. "The Inflation Reduction Act passed by the Senate over the weekend will, despite its name, do little to rein in inflation," concludes Capital Economics in a research note today. The drug pricing provisions, for instance, don't start until 2026. Likewise, reducing the cumulative deficit over the next decade by $300 billion is hardly a game-changer when the cumulative deficit over the 2023-2032 period is projected to be $15.7 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And I'm not thrilled about the corporate tax hikes or the excise tax on stock buybacks, although last-minute changes may have made them less onerous. Then there's all manner of tax credits, to the tune of some $400 billion, meant to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies (including nuclear production tax credit). The modeling does suggest a significant impact. For example: A Moody's Analytics analysis finds "that by 2050, we estimate emissions will be reduced by nearly 30% compared with a scenario in which there is no additional policy changes to address climate change." Likewise, modeling by the Rhodium Group finds that the US is currently on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 24 percent to 35 percent percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. IRA would increase that to between 31 percent to 44 percent by 2030. (Again, my ideal approach would be more R&D plus a carbon tax rather than all these credits.)

⤴ Energy Permitting Reform. As summarized by The Washington Post:

The side deal would set new two-year limits, or maximum timelines, for environmental reviews for "major" projects, the summary says. It would also aim to streamline the government processes for deciding approvals for energy projects by centralizing decision-making with one lead agency, the summary adds. Other provisions would limit legal challenges to energy projects and give the Energy Department more authority to approve electric transmission lines that are deemed to be "in the national interest," according to the document. One provision in the agreement could make it harder for government agencies to deny new approvals based on certain environmental impacts that are not directly caused by the project itself.

Look: How much of this newsletter has been devoted to criticizing the impact of decades-old environmental laws on our ability to build infrastructure and clean energy projects? So while these changes fall short of the sort of sweeping reforms I would prefer, especially to the National Environmental Policy Act, it's a step. "They're in the right direction but it still feels too small ball and piecemeal," Eli Dourado, a senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity, told the WaPo.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 5:57 AM


Happy Birthday, Benny!

Today would have been Benny Carter's 115th birthday. In past ATJ's I've written about Carter's wondrous skills as a saxophonist (in the 1920's he was one of the first great alto sax players in jazz and still ranks among the masters), composer and arranger. In this post, however, we'll showcase Benny's beautiful trumpet playing.

As a youngster, Benny initially hoped to be a trumpet player. After saving up the money to buy a horn, he became frustrated when he couldn't master it quickly and returned it for a C-melody saxophone. By his late teens, he was playing professionally around New York as a saxophonist, but kept trying his hand at the trumpet. Eventually he got say the least. The ability to play both brass instruments (trumpet, trombone, etc.) and woodwinds (sax, clarinet, etc.) is rare. The ability to play both at a world class level is even rarer. But Benny maintained that switching embouchures wasn't a problem for him...the real issue was not having enough time to practice both instruments.

Although he had first recorded on trumpet in March 1933, his first great trumpet feature was from a session in October of that year, playing his own lovely composition Once Upon a Time. Everything in Carter's approach - his tone, phrasing, articulation, sense of time, wider vibrato, and the half-valve notes at the end - reflects the prevalent style of the day, that is, the style of Louis Armstrong.

Within a few years, Benny had developed a unique and bravura trumpet style. More Than You Know, from 1939, is one of the great Swing Era trumpet solos. He states the theme in the first chorus, staying reasonably close to the melody, but decorating it with arpeggios and riffs. His tone is full, with a trace of vibrato. After a chorus by vocalist Raymond Felton, Benny returns for a short closing episode that builds to a dramatic conclusion as he nails a high "F" at the end.

A few months later, in January 1940, Carter recorded a lyrical and relaxed muted trumpet feature Slow Freight. (Joe Thomas plays the open trumpet solo in the third chorus.)

I Surrender Dear from 1944 represents Benny's mature trumpet style. He states the melody with a full, graceful tone that yields nothing to the leading Big Band trumpeters such as Harry James and Roy Eldridge. The band then kicks into double time, and Benny soars over the ensemble with a thrilling, swinging solo.

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Exclusive: Paul Manafort admits he passed Trump campaign data to a suspected Russian asset (Mattathias Schwartz, Aug. 8th, 2022, Business Insider)

In an interview with Insider, Paul Manafort, who served as Donald Trump's campaign chairman, made his first public admission that in 2016 he shared polling data from the Trump campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate with suspected ties to Russian intelligence.

Kilimnik then passed the data on to Russian spies, according to the US Treasury Department, which has characterized the data as "sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy." 

Manafort's acknowledgment contradicts his earlier denials, during the investigation into election interference conducted by the special counsel Robert Mueller, that he had anything to do with the transfer of sensitive campaign data.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Germany gets solar power boost amid energy crisis (Deutsche-Welle, 8/08/22)

Before the war in Ukraine put energy security at the forefront, the new German government had already pledged that renewable sources -- wind and solar -- would make up 80% of electricity production by 2030, instead of 42% today. By 2035, the government has said electricity generation should be carbon neutral.

It's an ambitious plan, but the country seems to be on its way. July was the third month in a row when solar power output soared to a record level, trade publication pv magazine reported. For the month, photovoltaic (PV) systems generated 8.23 ​​terawatt hours of power, around a fifth of net electricity production. They were only behind lignite-fired power plants, which brought in nearly 22% of net production. 

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After Going Solar, I Felt the Bliss of Sudden Abundance (CLIVE THOMPSON, JUL 29, 2022, Wired)

[T]hree and a half years ago, something happened that changed my entire psychology around electricity: I installed solar panels on my house.

I quickly found myself awash in more energy than I could use. The installers had predicted the panels would produce 100 percent of what my household needed. (Since battery systems aren't yet legal in Brooklyn, New York, where I live, any surplus I generated during sunlight hours would get sold to the grid, and I buy energy back at night.)

But the installers underestimated: It turns out I generate a lot of net surplus. According to the "smart meter" that my utility installed, in a 24-hour period my house frequently generates 25 percent more juice than I need, even on a hot summer day. On sunny spring and fall days, it'll crank out 50 percent more than I use. I'm saving about $2,000 a year, so I'll amortize the cost of the array in seven years; then the electricity is damn-near free.

It's had a fascinating effect on me: I've stopped worrying about electricity use, both economically and ethically. [...]

"It's the abundance agenda," Griffith says. In Electrify, he argues that a massive build-out of solar, wind, and storage mechanisms (including millions of electric cars, doubling as batteries) would make renewables reliable while also being much cheaper than what we now pay for fossil-fuel-produced electricity.

He has already seen a glimpse of it in his homeland of Australia, where 30 percent of houses have solar, and the arrays cost barely a quarter of what I paid for mine. Things could be as cheap here in the US, Griffith notes, if towns reduced red tape (zoning laws and building codes, mostly) and states reformed their rules on liability and connecting to the grid. The price barriers in the US aren't labor or materials: "It's all about regulations," he says. "It could change quickly if people wanted it to."

We should. Because take it from me: It's fun.

Which is why the Right/Left hates it. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sinema Speaks, Delivering Inflation Reduction Act Tweaks (Fisher Investments Editorial Staff, 08/05/2022)

Popular opinions on the bill generally fall into two camps: One seeing it as a package of deleterious tax hikes, and one seeing it as a win-win of output-boosting spending and deficit reduction. We think both positions are overly extreme and see the whole package as largely benign. Not because its provisions are inherently fine, but because it has zero surprises. Everything in it has been discussed to death for a year or more, and the final package is watered-down greatly from initial proposals, as we wrote in late July. Plus, simply passing the thing would end uncertainty over what will change, enabling markets to move on. The combination of less-sweeping-than-expected legislation and falling uncertainty should be a tailwind.

August 7, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 11:22 AM


Has Russia's carpet bombing of Ukraine been halted? (Deutsche-Welle, 8/07/22)

 According to US officials, more than 50 countries are now supporting Ukraine with arms shipments under US leadership. For months, they have also been coordinating politically in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group: deciding which country should supply which weapons to Ukraine, and determining the route that heavy weapons, such as the US HIMARS missile systems or the PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers, supplied by Germany and the Netherlands, should take in order to reach the Ukrainian front.

This aid may have brought about a turning point in the war, said Nico Lange, of the Christian Democrats. "The crucial aspect of the past few days is that Russia is now being forced to react to the Ukrainians' statements and actions," Lange, who had served as chief of staff to former Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, told DW. "Until now, it was the other way around: The Ukrainians were forced to react to everything Russia did."

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told DW that targeted HIMARS shelling of the Russian army's ammunition depots and command units has enabled Ukraine to reduce area bombardment by shelling -- in the east and south of the country, at least -- "by a factor of five to six."

Lange said: "Russia has now moved significant forces to the south, toward both Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, to reinforce its presence there and concentrate on securing and holding the conquered territories." The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, near Zaporizhzhia on the Dnieper River, is occupied by Russian forces, and an intelligence report by Britain's Defence Ministry states that Russian units are using the nuclear plant and the area around it as protection.

At the beginning of August, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency reiterated his urgent demand that Russian forces grant IAEA access to the facility for inspection and repairs.

"From this, you can tell that the war is changing," Lange said, "and that Russia is now forced to respond to the things Ukraine is doing." Russia is not able to "escalate indefinitely," he said -- and, in fact, is in "tremendous" military difficulty. "The Russians have gone on the defensive both north of Kharkiv and in Kherson in the south," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nativism puts on a new face for our troubled times (RANDALL BALMER, 8/06/22, The Valley News)

Earlier waves of immigrants, especially Roman Catholics, were suspected of being pawns in a vast conspiracy to replace Protestants. The December 1836 issue of the Quarterly Christian Spectator, for example, warned that Europe had an overabundance of Catholics who might be headed across the Atlantic to subvert Protestant Christian principles.

Europe "possesses a population to send to our shores, sufficient to outnumber and overwhelm us, in time, unless they can be prevented from coming," the nativist publication warned. The only solution was conversion to "real" -- Protestant -- Christianity. "Efforts must be made to impart the benefits of the true faith," the article continued, "to all the unenlightened and vicious who come among us from abroad, and to produce their conversion unto God."

The article, entitled "The Danger of Our Country," painted a dystopian picture of an America overrun by Catholics: "our liberty turned into despotism or licentiousness, -- our intelligence into ignorance -- our religion turned into infidelity or papacy." Such a society may survive, the article continued, "but we shall not be the present happy United States."

These conspiracy theories were not unusual. A passel of nativist organizations emerged in the antebellum period, including the Native American Democratic Association, the American Protestant Association, the Order of United Americans and the United Sons of America. All of them warned that the country was in danger of being overrun -- being replaced -- by Catholic immigrants, who were often caricatured as docile and prepared unquestioningly to do the bidding of the pope.

Nativist attacks on Catholic immigrants continued throughout the 19th century. The American Protective Association, founded in Clinton, Iowa, in 1887, spread antiCatholic sentiment, especially in the Midwest. Half a million members pledged not to vote for a Catholic, hire a Catholic or go on strike with a Catholic. Members took an oath, which read in part, "I furthermore promise and swear that I will not aid in building or maintaining, by my resources, any Roman Catholic church or institution of their sect or creed whatsoever, but will do all in my power to retard and break down the power of the Pope, in this country or any other." In addition, members pledged, "nor will I enter into any agreement with a Roman Catholic to strike or create a disturbance whereby the Catholic employees may undermine and substitute their Protestant co-workers."

August 6, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Wind energy delivers one third of electricity of Australia's main grid for first time (Giles Parkinson, 7 August 2022, Renew Economy)

The most notable is the record share of generation for wind energy - set at 33.45 per cent at 1.15am (AEST) on Friday morning, August 5, reaching one third of total output for the first time, and easily beating the previous record of 31.45 per cent.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


The GOP Summer Swoon (Matthew Coninetti, August 5, 2022, AEIdeas)

Today caps off the worst week yet for Republicans in the 2022 campaign cycle. Their troubles began with Senate passage of the Chips and Science Act on Wednesday, July 27, and culminated in the Kansas pro-life rout on Tuesday, August 2. Before last week, the party was riding a red wave to victory in November's elections. Now, one month before the campaign begins in earnest on Labor Day, aimless Republicans must fend off a Democratic Party that is playing offense.

Yes, the fundamentals continue to favor the GOP. Voters do not like this economy. They blame President Biden for inflation and supply shortages. The president's job approval rating is 39 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls. Republicans are enthusiastic, Democrats less so. Nancy Pelosi's days as speaker of the House are numbered: The FiveThirtyEight model gives the GOP an 80 percent chance of winning the lower chamber of Congress.

Yet Republicans want more than control of the House. No one wants to repeat the gridlock, frustration, debt crises, shutdowns, and sequester that roiled the country when Democrats held the White House and Senate between 2011 and 2015. If Republicans gain only in the House, Biden won't feel as much pressure to triangulate off the GOP Congress. He will be able to count on Senate Democrats to confirm his executive and judicial branch appointees. He will turn Kevin McCarthy and the MAGA Squad into foils and scapegoats. The media will be happy to play along.

The GOP needs a full-spectrum victory if it wants to stop the left and shock Democrats into abandoning Biden. The data and events of the past week suggest that the party has a way to go. For starters: Republicans have enjoyed a modest lead in the congressional generic ballot since January. Now the ballot is tied.

Meanwhile, according to FiveThirtyEight, the GOP nominee leads in only one of six key Senate races. The lucky Republican is Ted Budd in North Carolina. He's ahead of Cheri Beasley by 1 point. The other Republicans are either close behind (Adam Laxalt in Nevada) or far gone (Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania). The GOP needs to net one seat to win Senate control. If the election were held at the time of writing, the party would lose three.

John East, Paula Hawkins and Jeremiah Denton won.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Former Attorney General Bill Barr says Jan. 6 grand jury activity suggests prosecutors "taking a hard look at the group at the top, including the president" (AUGUST 5, 2022, BS NEWS

Former Attorney General Bill Barr called the newest federal grand jury subpoenas probing the Jan. 6, 202, Capitol riot "a significant event," one that suggests that government prosecutors are probing high-ranking Trump administration officials and allies, and even former President Donald Trump.

"This suggests to me that they're taking a hard look at the group at the top, including the president and the people immediately around him who were involved in this," Barr told CBS News' Catherine Herridge in an interview Friday. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


I Don't Donate to Politicians, but I Will to Liz Cheney: Her principled stance against Trump, despite the political risks, deserves admiration. (Joseph Epstein, Aug. 5, 2022, WSJ)

Few politicians risk losing their next election to take the high ground of just action. Ms. Cheney's performance is all the more admirable when placed next to various Republicans--Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is vying for speaker if Republicans take the House, is a sad example--spinning, squirming, hedging their true views of Mr. Trump lest they and their party lose his support in the midterm elections. The sight is not pretty and gives good reason why politicians, and politics generally, are often held in richly deserved contempt by many Americans.

By dramatic contrast Ms. Cheney bathes not in self-righteousness but genuine righteousness, which is good for the political complexion. She claims to have taken the position she has because she felt it was "right" to do so. "The single most important thing is protecting the nation from Donald Trump," Ms. Cheney said in an interview last month with ABC News. For her, moral rectitude comes before party. This is most impressive--and extremely rare.

As vice chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, Ms. Cheney has come across as smart, strong and authoritative. She has been asked, if she loses her seat in Congress, whether she might be interested in running for president. Unlikely as that seems, I could see her as a vice-presidential candidate on a non-Trump ticket that promises to return the Republican Party to its first principles. On such a ticket, if successful, Liz Cheney could be for women in this country all the things that Kamala Harris has thus far proved not to be.

My check is in the mail.

August 5, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


We visited a Taliban leader's compound to examine his vision for Afghanistan (Steve Inskeep, 8/05/22, NPR: Morning Edition)

Some Afghan girls are in school while others are barred. Some women are still working while others cannot. Even leading ulema, or groups of religious scholars, have said it is appropriate for middle school and high school-age girls to return to class.

"This is a serious issue for us," Yaqoob said. "Hopefully there will be more about it."

Other Taliban officials we met during our journey said they must move slowly and prepare the political ground. They're concerned that some Taliban fighters, ideologically trained as they are, may turn against their own leaders. While the leadership debates, the current policy has led to widespread calls for change, even in very conservative, Taliban-dominated valleys.

Strictly speaking, there is no rule of law at all. Afghanistan's republican constitution is not considered in effect, and nothing has replaced it. Some of the old laws are enforced -- particularly tax laws; it's widely said here that the Taliban have been effective tax collectors -- while others are considered defunct. The Taliban have allowed the free media to continue reporting the news, but also have been accused of beating journalists or demanding that they change their coverage. The disappearance of a media law leaves journalists uncertain of their rights. Establishing constitutional law is a "necessity," Yaqoob acknowledged.

There also is no transparent means to investigate numerous allegations of human rights violations by Taliban forces across the country; a United Nations report recently alleged hundreds of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and instances of torture in the first 10 months of Taliban rule. Yaqoob rejected the report but asserted that military courts were in place to prosecute those who committed abuses.

Yaqoob's primary responsibility is security, which he described as "100% OK," though the later revelation that al-Qaida's leader was living in the center of Kabul cast the statement in a different light. The Taliban have waged brutal war against the Islamic State but historically have been more tolerant toward al-Qaida, dating back to the time when Yaqoob's father sheltered bin Laden.

Asked if he wanted better relations with the United States, Yaqoob laughed.

"This is obvious," he said, adding that recognition of the current regime was in the United States' own interest because the U.S. had no other regime to deal with. "There are many countries that are more against America than us, but they recognize them officially," he said. "There are more countries in the world that pose more danger than Afghanistan to America, but still America recognized them officially. I think that recognition is a positive step toward a bigger change."

Yaqoob said he had heard that U.S. officials consider recognition politically impossible because the American people would be against it. "If that is true, I ask from the nation of America to put pressure on the government," he said. And if they don't, then "the claim of friendship with the Afghan people is more fake than honest."

Other Taliban leaders compare their country to Vietnam's communist government, which fought the United States in what had previously been America's longest war, but later became a trading partner and even in some ways a friend.

Giving up Zawahiri was a decent peace offering.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Conclusive evidence that COVID-19 began in the Huanan market (Dr. Tim Sandle, August 5, 2022, AFP)

New studies link COVID-19 to wildlife sales at Chinese market. In addition, the research indicates that alternative scenarios are extremely unlikely. These studies come from the University of Arizona.

The research uses location data and viral sequencing relating to early COVID-19 cases. This work shows that the pandemic started in Huanan market in Wuhan, China, with live animals being sold at the market as the likely source. Here, foxes, raccoon dogs and other live mammals susceptible to the virus were sold live immediately before the pandemic began.

The research has eliminated all other potential sources for the origins of the pandemic. The researchers say the evidence points to the first spread to humans from animals likely occurring in two separate transmission events in the Huanan market in late November 2019.

Posted by orrinj at 10:35 AM


Trump's True Believers (IAN BURUMA, 8/04/22, Project Syndicate)

[W]hat accounts for the ex-president's continuing grip on the trust and affection of so many Republicans? Ignorance and lack of interest may be part of it, but if so, it is a willful ignorance, because all the facts about January 6 are out in the open, even though Fox News refused to broadcast the committee's hearings.

But talking about the facts may miss the point. To many of his supporters, Trump is more than just a politician. A major part of his appeal is that he was never really a politician at all. People have turned to him as a kind of messiah. They don't just support him, they believe in him as a savior who gives them a sense of pride, not least in belonging to something greater than the life of any individual person.

Class has much to do with this. Trump's most loyal supporters are white Americans without any higher education, often living in rural areas, who feel unheard, condescended to, and even despised by better-educated, more urban Americans. The more that educated liberals deplore what former President Barack Obama once described as people who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them," the more the typical Trump voters will double down on their beliefs.

Trump understands this and, despite his wealth, shares the popular resentment of elites that never quite accepted him or his family of shady real-estate operators. The fact that he is a serial sinner against the religious values that many of his followers claim as their own does not faze them. Most people are sinners, after all. Rates of divorce and teenage birth are higher in solidly Republican states than in more liberal parts of America. The more Trump's political opponents criticize him for being an adulterer, a bigot, and a liar, the more his followers defend him. That is why the facts laid out by the January 6 Committee don't matter to them.

The key is that Trump, like all skillful demagogues, gives people who feel powerless a sense of collective power. He fires up a warm feeling of "us" against "them," and of being "patriots" pitted against arrogant cosmopolitan urbanites who coddle non-white minorities, immigrants, and transsexuals.

It's a Puritan Nation: if you're born into the most advantaged circumstances in human history but blame others for your personal inadequacies we're doing to condescend to you.

Posted by orrinj at 10:13 AM


US job growth surges by half a million in July, wages rise (AFP, August 5, 2022)

[US] job growth surged in July, as the economy added a surprising 528,000 positions, more than double what economists were expecting, according to official data released Friday.

"Today, the unemployment rate matches the lowest it's been in more than 50 years: 3.5%," Biden said in a White House statement.

"More people are working than at any point in American history ... there's more work to do, but today's jobs report shows we are making significant progress for working families."

The outsized job gain in June was revised higher, as was May -- adding a total 28,000 positions to the initial report, the Labor Department reported.

Meanwhile, the closely-watched report showed wages jumped -- with average hourly earnings up 15 cents over June -- stoking concerns about a possible wage-price spiral. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 5.2 percent.

Open the borders and tax consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Viktor Orbán's racism not a deal breaker for the right in the U.S. (Steve Benen, 8/04/22, MSNBC)

Donald Trump welcomed Orbán to his golf venue in Bedminster this week. "Great spending time with my friend," the former president said in a written statement. The Republican said the two "celebrated his great electoral victory in April," but made no reference to the Hungarian's overt racism.

And then, of course, there's the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- by most measures, the nation's largest conservative gathering -- which is kicking off today in Dallas, and which is welcoming Orbán as a speaker. NBC News reported:

The American Conservative Union, the organizers of CPAC, defended their invitation to Orbán, regardless of his comments. "CPAC is looking forward to hosting leaders from across the country and the world. We support the open exchange of ideas unlike so many American socialists. The press might despise Prime Minister Orbán, but he is a popular leader," spokesman Alex Pfeiffer told NBC News.

It was a curious defense. Pointing to Orbán's "popularity" has nothing to do with merit or propriety: After all, popular leaders can be monsters, regardless of their domestic support.

The question, rather, is about the American right's embrace of an authoritarian bigot. CPAC and Trump know what Orbán said. They know he's been the recipient of international condemnations. They know one of the prime minister's own aides recently compared him to a literal Nazi.

And they don't seem to care.

Not care?  It's why they love him. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Poll: Many Americans say 2nd Biden or Trump term would be 'worst thing that could happen' in 2024 (Andrew Romano, August 4, 2022, Yahoo!)

[A] plurality of registered voters now say it would be "the worst thing that could happen" if either President Biden (39%) or former President Donald Trump (41%) were to win the White House again in 2024, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

Only about half as many voters say a second Trump term would be "the best thing that could happen" (22%). A mere 8% say the same about a second Biden term.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Eco Wave Power Commences Test Runs of its Newest EWP-EDF Project (Off Grid Energy Independence, 8/05/22)
On August 1st, 2022, Eco Wave Power's engineering team met with representatives from the Israeli Electric Company (IEC) to coordinate the next steps for the actual grid connection works. Once connected to the grid, the EWP-EDF One wave energy pilot project will be the first time in the history of Israel that electricity produced by the power of the waves will be officially transmitted to Israel's national electric grid.
Eco Wave Power is a leading onshore wave energy technology company that developed a patented, smart and cost-efficient technology for turning ocean and sea waves into green electricity. Eco Wave Power's mission is to assist in the fight against climate change by enabling commercial power production from the ocean and sea waves. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


VIDEO: The Big Weird Batteries That May Help Avert Climate Catastrophe (Michael Byhoff and Alan Jeffries, August 4, 2022, Bloomberg)

[E]ngineers have been racing to find ways to store green energy on a massive scale. Some of the solutions they've come up with are indeed huge--and weird. On this episode of "Power Moves," we explore the ways in which scientists are trying to bank electricity--and save us.

Switzerland's new energy asset: hydro plant with capacity to charge 400,000 car batteries (Denis Balibouse, 8/05/22,  Reuters) 

Switzerland is adding a much needed cog in the wheel to its energy supply with an underground hydropower plant that says it has capacity to store enough electricity to charge 400,000 car batteries simultaneously.

Developers of the 2.2 billion Swiss franc ($2.30 billion) Nant de Drance plant in the canton of Valais, which came online in July, say the facility operates like a giant battery.

Its six turbines tucked in a cavern 600 metres below ground between the Emosson and Vieux Emosson reservoirs have capacity of 900 MW, making it one of the most powerful pumped storage plants in Europe.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


Everything DARPA's Been Doing for the Last 20 Years: Digging into DARPA's history to suss out the agency's most significant, sometimes scary research from the last two decades. (Mack DeGeurin, 8/04/22, Gizmodo)

A less obvious, but arguably far more consequential DARPA pursuit over the past two decades comes by way of biotech: specifically vaccine development and therapeutics. Though many others have claimed responsibility for the recent surge in RNA vaccines used to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, DARPA director Tompkins said many of the pivotal early advancements within that space emerged from the agency's ADEPT project. That project was originally intended as a vehicle for rapid vaccine development and therapeutics for overseas military forces but quickly evolved to uses on a much larger scale, mirroring a familiar DARPA trajectory.

DARPA-funded RNA projects at Moderna resulted in the first Phase 1 clinical trial proving RNA could deliver antibodies to protect against viruses. That original proposal involved using RNA to encode things other than just vaccine antigens, but around a decade later the pandemic made that specific use case extremely urgent.

Gizmodo spoke with Doctor Amy Jenkins, a program manager in DARPA's Biological Technologies Office (BTO) to discuss the ways the agency's early biotech investments influenced the pandemic's course. Like autonomous vehicle research before it, Jenkins said the agency's interest in RNA research was specifically tied to use cases within the military, though potential civilian applications clearly seemed within the realm of possibility.

"What's good for the DoD, which are by and large healthy 18- to 30-year-olds is gonna be good for the general population as well," Jenkins said. "We always knew there could be civilian applications and encouraged that with the groups that we funded."

And while DARPA's ADEPT program was developed with the explicit thought of a pandemic in mind, Jenkins said the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic and its destructive reality still came as a shock.

Though DARPA ceased funding RNA vaccine research years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jenkins said it was still actively funding work with Moderna looking into monoclonal antibodies. Unlike vaccines that take time to set in, monoclonal antibodies at their best can start preventing disease immediately following an injection. Funding for that project aimed to protect soldiers in the intervening time it takes vaccines to fully kick in but has already led to multiple commercial pharmaceutical products that are available to civilians.

When asked about the outright rejection of the RNA vaccines by some on the political right and broader criticism against companies like Moderna making eye-watering profits after receiving funding from the U.S. government, Jenkins responded by arguing expensive new technologies like RNA may not have been possible without government agencies jumping in to fill a gap left in the pharmaceutical market. This is a common argument made by pharmaceutical companies themselves and there's plenty of reason to be skeptical of it.

"No company gets rich off of an infectious disease threat," Jenkins said. "Large pharma and many of them are shutting down their infectious disease divisions because it is just not profitable." We have seen scattered long-term R&D shutdowns in the pharma industry but the operating principle is a "threat" isn't going to be very profitable unless it... uh, you know, becomes a global pandemic. In that case: jackpot! Until then, public money is a big help.

"If we want to have these capabilities that allow the U.S. to have access to the life-saving drugs when the time comes then I think it does require government funding to make sure that these technologies are being developed."

The question of whether that funding should go to a for-profit company remains up for debate, but DARPA is pretty firmly in the "public-private partnership" camp.

Innovation in America is Third Way

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


The Disappearing Modernists: Where did it all go wrong for so much music of the 20th century? (Mark N. Grant | August 4, 2022, American Scholar)

When Pablo Picasso was 18, his immortal greatness was not yet self-evident. As the historian and painter Paul Johnson writes, the artist lacked "full academic training," and his drawing was "sometimes weak in consequence (one of the myths most consistently spread about Picasso is that he was a superb draftsman)." According to Johnson, "Picasso seems to have grasped, quite early on, that he would not get to the top of the field of conventional painting." In Barcelona, "he was up against Ramon Casas i Carbó, fifteen years his senior and far more accomplished in traditional skills." Johnson maintains that Casas was "a draftsman on the level of Ingres" and that "Picasso's portraits invited comparison with Casas's and are manifestly inferior (both can be seen in Barcelona)." Picasso left Spain for good in 1904, "to get away from life under Casas's shadow and ... endless disparaging comparisons with Casas," and he saw "that Paris, with its preoccupation with novelty and fashion, was the place where he could shine and rise to the top."

No one actually liked Modernism, a truth captured by Tom Wolfe: 

    O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, has there ever been another place on earth
    where so many people of wealth and power have paid for and put up with so much architecture they
    detested as within they blessed borders today?

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 AM


New heat pump design inflates efficiency and deflates costs: The remarkably simple new technology could lower the cost of owning a climate-friendly HVAC system and increase its adoption (Prachi Patel, August 4, 2022, Anthropocene)

Electrifying homes and office buildings is going to be important to reduce the world's reliance on fossil fuels. The big frontier in this area is heating and cooling, which in most parts of the world still relies on gas boilers and energy-hungry air-conditioning.

Heat pumps, which can run on renewable electricity to heat and cool indoor spaces, are a promising way to reduce building emissions. But they cost more than gas or oil furnaces and are expensive to operate because their energy efficiency decreases in cold weather.

A new type of energy-efficient heat pump technology could reduce those costs. Reported in the journal Communications Engineering, the new heat pump in theory uses 20 percent less power than conventional pumps.

"The technology will enable heat pumps that are more energy efficient and flexible, and thus more cost-effective than current designs," says Zhibin Yu, professor of thermal energy at the University of Glasgow, and lead author of the paper. "That could facilitate the uptake of heat pump technologies, contributing to heat decarbonization."

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 AM


Total football -- from catenaccio to gegenpressing it's about openness to ideas: Footballing philosophies are central to the national mythologies of the cultures that produce them. (Josh Mcloughlin, 8/03/22,  Engelsberg Ideas)

The successor to the German tradition of footballing efficiency is gegenpress ('counter-press'), a highly drilled, systematised method developed by the German football manager Ralf Rangnick (who took the idea from Lobanovskyi) and raised to a standard of excellence by other coaches. At club level, manager Jürgen Klopp used gegenpressing to win back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012 against an utterly dominant Bayern Munich. He led Liverpool to the Champions League (2019), Premier League (2020), FA Cup and League Cup (2022) with a fraction of the budget enjoyed by Abu Dhabi's sportswashing vehicle Manchester City, who are yet to win the Champions League despite spending more than £1bn. Meanwhile, former player-turned-coach Joachim Löw guided Germany to their fourth World Cup in 2014 with a merciless, high-pressing style.

Before his death in 2015, Galeano lamented such ruthless efficiency in which, he thought, individual expression was sacrificed to the demands of the system. 'The history of football,' he said, 'is a sad voyage from beauty to duty.' Galeano may have died grumbling about the latest tactical trend, but football remains, as he put it, a 'primordial symbol of collective identity.'

One potent recent example is the England women's team's triumph at Euro 2022. The Lionesses have united a squabbling nation and achieved what the men's team failed to do since 1966. After a disappointing spell under Phil Neville, the FA appointed Sarina Wiegman as the first ever permanent foreign coach of the women's team. She dropped captain Steph Houghton, selected nine players with no previous tournament experience, and implemented a technical, pressing style in the tradition of her native Netherlands. When the England men's team lost to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, manager Gareth Southgate lacked the nerve to make risky substitutions in pursuit of victory. Wiegman, on the other hand, has been widely praised for her fearless and decisive tactical changes throughout the tournament. Once again, England's success on the international stage came when conservatism was abandoned in favour of a bolder, more open-minded approach.    

Football can't tell us everything about the world. But as the historian David Goldblatt points out, 'football is first. First among sports themselves, first among the world's popular cultural forms' and 'the most global and most popular of popular cultural phenomena.' If the way we play expresses our 'way of being,' one lesson football tactics can teach us is that insularity ends up, more often than not, on the losing side.

On the one hand, the current USMNT is the most technically gifted team we've ever produced and so young that in the 2026 World Cup, which will be played in North America, we will be favored to advance pretty far. But, on the other, we have lost our distinctively American style in the process, which was based on superior physicality, speed, spirit and goalkeeping. These elements were never more evident than in the archetypal winning goal against Algeria in 2010. This squad is, at least, leavened with some brawn--Westen McKennie in central midfield and Walker Zimmerman in central defense, but it would really help if forward Daryl Dike took a step forward this year, playing in England. 

August 4, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


The Courage to See:  The brave moderation and manly prudence of Edmund Burke (This excerpt is adapted from The Statesman as Thinker: Portraits of Greatness, Courage, and Moderation, by Daniel J. Mahoney)

As Greg Weiner puts it in his fine, recent book Old Whigs: Burke, Lincoln, and the Politics of Prudence, the prudent statesman must learn to combine "principle and circumstance" and, I would add, moderation and courage in a judicious and prudent way. Those noble virtues have an essential place in the exercise of judgment and action informed by prudence and are virtues in and of themselves. Weiner expertly shows that, for Burke, prudence is inseparably connected to "politic caution, a guarded circumspection" and a "moral rather than complexional timidity." Those qualities, Burke wrote, were always "among the ruling principles of our forefathers in their most decided conduct." Weiner quite rightly remarks that Burke "was perhaps the first commentator fully to theorize the case for caution as a sort of default position rooted in the moral virtue of humility." The statesman is first and foremost the caretaker of a noble (if imperfect) inheritance that must be safeguarded and even cherished. Precipitous and presumptuous efforts to depart from the tried and true woefully exaggerate the human capacity to begin things de novo, from scratch, without the guidance of the wisdom of the past or the experience of our forebears. Burke's endorsement of "politic caution" is thus both practical and epistemological in character since the revolutionary "innovator" has little or no appreciation of what he does not know. From this fatal mixture of ignorance and hubris only reckless destruction can follow.

But once the ideological temptation is afoot in the human world, moderation must be accompanied by courage and no inconsiderable amount of spiritedness if civilization is to survive. When many in the English political class mistook post-Robespierre France with an ordinary European power, pursuing its national interest like any other great people or nation, Burke took aim at a "misguided prudence" that confused cowardice (or confusion) with humility. Burke saw "imprudent timidity" all around him rather than the true "wisdom of a nation." Confronted by an aggressive ideological despotism that aimed to upend all governments not based on its revolutionary principles, Burke attacked the "unworthy hesitation" that flowed from the lack of "the courage to see" (to use a phrase of Solzhenitsyn's addressing a similar tendency among twentieth-century politicians and intellectuals who refused to acknowledge expansionist Communism for what it really was). Weiner draws our attention to a distinction Burke introduces in the Letters on a Regicide Peace between "courageous wisdom" and a "false, reptile prudence" that arises not out of salutary "caution" but out of "fear" and misjudgment perhaps rooted in the failure to cultivate "the courage to see." Yet whether as an advocate of "politic caution" or as a critic of "hesitating prudence" and "weakness of will," Burke continues to exercise all the humanizing arts of prudence. In addition, his appeal to courage is never severed from an underlying moderation committed to the preservation of a civilization that bows in gratitude before the inherited wisdom of the past and that upholds the permanent necessity of "sacred limits and restraints." Few statesmen can match the capaciousness of Burke's soul, one that ties together courage and moderation and nobility of spirit with a humble deference before both God and the great inheritance that is civilization itself. Burke exudes nobility in his every thought and deed. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


But His Emails! Feds Go After Peter Navarro's Secret Inbox (Justin Rohrlich,  Aug. 03, 2022, Daily Beast)

Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM

Posted by orrinj at 1:48 PM


A Copy of Alex Jones' Cellphone Will Be Turned Over to the January 6 Committee 'Immediately' (Anna Merlan, August 4, 2022, Vice News)

After Wednesday's revelation that an attorney for Alex Jones accidentally turned over a copy of his entire cellphone to the lawyers suing him on behalf of Sandy Hook parents, a couple of things were obvious. The first was that Alex Jones must be turning redder than ever; the second was that the Congressional committee holding hearings on the January 6 insurrection would probably want those records, too. In an emergency hearing this morning, an attorney for the Sandy Hook parents, Mark Bankston, confirmed that he'd had requests from "several law enforcement agencies," including the January 6 committee, to turn over the phone data, and that he intends to do so "immediately." 

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


The Distinct Shame of Senate Republicans: Think about what Republican senators must have known when they voted not to convict Trump during the second impeachment. (A.B. STODDARD  AUGUST 4, 2022, The Bulwark)

First, what did they know: The idea that the tiny network of the nation's top Republicans were not circulating the ghastly details of Trump's actions beginning on Election Day defies credulity.

Of course they would have known about the pressure Pence was under, surely by late December. Not only were these discussions happening all over town, but Pence himself was out and about seeking counsel, asking various Republicans if they could see any way out for him. If Dan Quayle knew what was going on from his house 600 miles away in Indiana, then Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz and the rest of the Republican Senate caucus must have known what was happening a mile from their offices.

But they had secrets to keep until the Senate runoffs in Georgia January 5. Mitch McConnell was only willing to say that overturning the election "would damage our Republic forever" after he'd lost his position as majority leader. To slightly invert Churchill, McConnell was given the choice of defeat or dishonor. He chose dishonor. And then he got defeat in the bargain, anyway.

Yet let's pretend that, somehow, Republican senators had truly been innocent--like children they had genuinely not known anything about Trump's intentions and actions before January 6.

Well, they surely learned about them on January 6. We know this because during the 187 minute span that afternoon, Trump called Republican senators. We know that he spoke with Tommy Tuberville and Josh Hawley. Who else did Trump call? And are we supposed to believe that neither of these men conveyed what they learned about Trump's state of mind to their colleagues?

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


4 Cops Tied to Breonna Taylor's Death Arrested and Charged (Roberto Ferdman,  Belle Cushing, Nicole Bozorgmir, Juanita Ceballos, August 4, 2022, Vice News)

The FBI has arrested four current and former Louisville Metro Police officers who were somehow involved in the deadly raid that killed 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, according to multiple sources.

The officers, who were taken into custody Thursday morning, include former detectives Brett Hankison and Joshua Jaynes, as well as Detective Kelly Hanna Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany.

The Department of Justice confirmed the arrests in a press conference Thursday morning during which U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland elaborated on the charges. They include two counts of deprivation of civil rights against Hankison for firing 10 shots through a window and glass door along the side of Taylor's apartment. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM

YEAH, BUT IT'S ONLY 100%...:

Flexible Device Harvests Thermal Energy to Power Wearables (Printed Electronics World)

Wearable electronics, from health and fitness trackers to virtual reality headsets, are part of our everyday lives. But finding ways to continuously power these devices is a challenge. University of Washington researchers have developed an innovative solution: the first-of-its kind flexible, wearable thermoelectric device that converts body heat to electricity. This device is soft and stretchable, yet sturdy and efficient -- properties that can be challenging to combine.
"It's a 100% gain if we harvest thermal energy that would otherwise be wasted to the surroundings. Because we want to use that energy for self-powered electronics, a higher power density is needed," said Mohammad Malakooti, a UW assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


The Jan. 6 Committee's Findings Have Met the Appropriately High Bar for Prosecuting Trump (Walter Olson, 8/04/22, The UnPopulist)

First, and most straightforward, the work of the January 6 committee has helped to make clear many facts relevant to whether to prosecute. These facts include Trump's state of mind and state of knowledge regarding events at the Capitol and the efforts to derail the certification of electors, as well as the seriousness of those events. I've always accepted in principle that these might be enough to overcome a presumption against prosecution, but the committee's output moved me along to where I was willing to say, "Yes, they do."

Second, if you're going to trade off the interests of thorough justice against those of civic peace, you need to actually get the civic peace. Approve or disapprove of the Nixon pardon, Nixon, having resigned, soon settled into a post-presidential career of benign elder statesman, a role seemingly meant to calm the storms of his tenure and help Americans forget what a divisive figure he had been.

In retrospect, I think I underrated how divisive and destructive of civic peace it can be to see criminal behavior prosper, above all when it strikes at the process of democratic succession itself. Letting a brazenly unrepentant elected official walk free after such conduct will only embolden more and worse behavior of the same kind.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


New York's Third Offshore Wind Farm to Power 1.5 Million Homes (off Grid, 7/28/22)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul hasannounced the release of New York's third competitive offshore wind solicitation, seeking enough clean, renewable energy to power at least 1.5 million New York homes. The procurement, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, includes the first phase of the nation-leading $500 million investment in offshore wind ports, manufacturing, and supply chain infrastructure as announced in the Governor's 2022 State of the State. Today's announcement builds on a series of significant offshore wind developments for the State in 2022, including the groundbreaking of New York's first offshore wind project, and is a critical next step toward achieving New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) goal to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


How a dairy farm used solar and Aussie battery technology to take the power back (Sophie Vorrath, 8/04/22, One Step off the Grid)

Fourth-generation diary farmers John and Rochelle Pekin made the call to shift to on-site renewables after it became clear their Nikep Dairy Farm would struggle to remain profitible while exposed to soaring grid power prices.

Being at the fringe of the Victorian grid, power reliability had also been a problem for the energy intensive, 950-cow dairy farm, which up until now has depended on a mix of grid electricity and diesel to power its operations for milking, cooling, and effluent management.

To address these concerns, agribusiness solar and storage integrator, Farming the Sky (Commpower Industrial), installed a 250kW rooftop solar system and 520kWh Renaissance superRack battery, to store the excess solar.

Farming the Sky has estimated that the new solar and battery system will reduce the Nikep Dairy Farm's reliance on grid electricity by up to 95 percent, and decrease its energy and fuel bills by a whopping $70,000 a year.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Hawley is only senator to vote against Finland, Sweden NATO membership (MYCHAEL SCHNELL, 08/03/22 , The Hill)

August 3, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The PA is gradually being cornered by Palestinian society (Ramona Wadi, August 2, 2022, MEMO)

Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, does not tolerate any political thought that is divergent from his brand of corruption. While the murder of Palestinian activist, Nizar Banat, last year by the PA's security services was marked with prominence, the PA has persisted in persecuting Palestinian activists, university students and journalists, under the pretext of safety for Palestinian civilians. Abbas has, perhaps, conveniently wiped out the memory of Palestinians being beaten for protesting against his rule and the security services' murder of Banat. The only safety Abbas wants concerns his rule. It could be said that possibly the PA is funded only to exist as a buffer zone between Palestinian civilians and Israel's colonial expansion and violence, for Israel's benefit, of course.

In 2021, Lawyers for Justice recorded more than 340 arrests made by the PA. Between May and November last year, more than 200 Palestinians were arrested, based upon their political opinions.

In June this year, Israeli media reported that 14 security services officers on trial for Banat's murder have been released on bail, ostensibly due to the risk of a coronavirus spread in prison. The selective release, of course, fools nobody. Releasing officers who are clearly a threat to Palestinian civilians is of no concern to the PA, but rather a necessity.

The entire point of the Abraham Accords is to jointly oppress Arab civil society. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



By ditching the normally used organic mediums and opting for high tech glass, known as inorganic phosphosilicate glass (PSG), instead, the researchers were able to reach nanosecond speeds, which were faster than the synapses in the human brain.

"The action potential in biological cells rises and falls with a timescale of milliseconds, since the voltage difference of about 0.1 volt is constrained by the stability of water," said senior author and professor of nuclear science Ju Li, in the statement. "Here we apply up to ten volts across a special solid glass film of nanoscale thickness that conducts protons, without permanently damaging it."

"And the stronger the field, the faster the ionic devices," he added.

Because PSG can withstand high voltages without breaking, it allows the protons to travel at ludicrous speeds while also being incredibly energy-efficient.

The material is both common and easy to fabricate, making it not only the fastest option, but also a practical one.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


First to USA TODAY: Uninsured rate hit record low of 8%, HHS analysis shows (Maureen Groppe, 8/03/22, USA TODAY)

A record low 8% of Americans lacked health insurance at the start of the year, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided first to USA TODAY.

More than 5 million people have gained coverage since 2020, according to the department's review of household survey data.

All Republican petulance did is prevent us from having an efficient system. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pelosi pledges solidarity with Taiwan as China holds military drills, vents anger (Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu, 8/03/22, Reuters)

Pelosi arrived with a congressional delegation on an unannounced visit late on Tuesday, defying China's repeated warnings, in what she said shows unwavering U.S. commitment to Taiwan's democracy.

"Our delegation came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan," Pelosi told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. read more

"Now, more than ever, America's solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that's the message we are bringing here, today."

Addressing parliament, Pelosi said new U.S. legislation aimed at strengthening the American chip industry to compete with China "offers greater opportunity for U.S.-Taiwan economic cooperation."

"We thank you for your leadership. We want the world to recognise that," Pelosi told Tsai, who Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence - a red line for China.

A long-time China critic, especially on human rights, Pelosi was set to meet later on Wednesday with a former Tiananmen activist, a Hong Kong bookseller who had been detained by China and a Taiwanese activist recently released by China, people familiar with the matter said.

Our first leader since W.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the world's biggest four-day workweek trial run changed people's lives (Anna Cooban, 8/01/22, CNN Business)

Now, the company has banned all internal meetings longer than five minutes, keeps all client meetings to 30 minutes and has introduced a "traffic light" system to prevent unnecessary disturbances -- colleagues have a light on their desk, and set it to 'green' if they are happy to talk, 'amber' if they are busy but available to speak, and 'red' if they do not want to be interrupted.

Unity, a public relations agency in London, has introduced a "traffic light" system -- employees have a light on their desk set it to 'green' if they are happy to talk, 'amber' if they are busy but available to speak, and 'red' if they do not want to be interrupted.
Unity, a public relations agency in London, has introduced a "traffic light" system -- employees have a light on their desk set it to 'green' if they are happy to talk, 'amber' if they are busy but available to speak, and 'red' if they do not want to be interrupted.

Until last month, Iceland had conducted the world's biggest pilot of a four-day work week. Between 2015 and 2019, the country put 2,500 of its public sector workers through two trials.

Crucially, those trials found no corresponding drop in productivity -- and a dramatic increase in employee well-being.

Now cut that workday in half, given that you're productive for less than three hours of it. 

August 2, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


Speaker Pelosi Arrives in Taiwan (Reuters, 8/02/22)

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday, starting a visit that Beijing had warned her against taking, saying it would undermine Sino-U.S. relations.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Graph of the Day: Large scale wind and solar set record output on Australia's main grid (Giles Parkinson, 2 August 2022, Renew Economy)

Large scale wind and solar set a new instantaneous output of 9239MW on Australia's main grid at noon on Monday, when it was delivering around one third of the main grid demand.

The new benchmark beat the previous record set in May this year of 9133MW, according to data provider GPE NemLog2, and does not include the more than 5,200MW of rooftop solar that was also being produced at the same time.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Moscow Accuses U.S. of 'Destabilization' Over Reported Pelosi Visit to Taiwan (AFP, Aug. 2nd, 2022)

"Washington is bringing destabilisation to the world. Not a single resolved conflict in recent decades, but many provoked ones," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on social media.

It's the point of our existence, to End History for those denied the opportunity to do so themselves. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Manchin pressure campaign: CEOs, labor bosses and Bill Gates (ZACK COLMAN, JOSH SIEGEL and KELSEY TAMBORRINO, 07/29/2022, Politico)

With hundreds of billions of dollars of incentives for manufacturing, electric vehicles, nuclear power and carbon capturing technology hanging in the balance, executives from some of the nation's biggest companies and labor unions made their case to the Democratic West Virginia senator: The next generation of clean tech needed Washington's backing to take off.

Clean energy manufacturing companies with plans to set up shop in Manchin's state helped orchestrate the 13-day effort to change his mind, more than 20 people involved in the effort told POLITICO -- eventually helping to get his backing for the $369 billion in incentives in the newly dubbed Inflation Reduction Act, H.R. 5376 (117). That push -- which two of the people said included a call from Bill Gates, whose venture capital firm has backed a West Virginia-based battery start-up -- was taking place alongside a campaign by other senators along with economist and inflation hawk Larry Summers to convince Manchin of the merits of the bill.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Al-Zawahiri killing shows 'over-the-horizon' counterterrorism can work (Adam Weinstein, 8/01/22, Responsible Statecraft)

Tonight's announcement that al-Qaeda terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed over the weekend is the product of years of effort and Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice. But it is also important to recognize just how wrong the conventional groupthink was about the limits of post-withdrawal counterterrorism.

It cannot be exaggerated how improbable conventional critics of President Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan insisted today's success would be. The prevailing critique of an over-the-horizon strategy was that it would be nearly impossible to conduct effective counterterrorism strikes without continuing a 20-year failed counterinsurgency. Arguing otherwise became a lonely position in Washington. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The power of friendships between poor kids and rich kids (Erica Pandey, 8/01/22, Axios)

The study authors did a first-of-its-kind analysis of 72 million Facebook friendships between U.S. adults.

What they found: If poor children grew up in neighborhoods in which 70% of their friends were rich, their future incomes would be 20% higher than their counterparts who grew up without these bonds across class lines.

This was a stronger indicator of future income than factors like family structure and school quality, as well as the racial makeup and job availability in the child's community.

Reality check: It's not that simple. Friendships across class are increasingly hard to come by in our divided country.

For example, for people in the bottom 10% of the income distribution, only 2.5% of their friends are in the top 10%, Johannes Stroebel, an economist at NYU and one of the study authors, tells Axios.

There are some cities that are doing better than others. In Salt Lake City and Minneapolis, nearly half of the friends of folks in the bottom half of the income distribution are in the top half. But in Indianapolis, only about 30% of poorer people's friends are rich.

And there are certain spaces where cross-class bonds are built more frequently, Stroebel says. Churches, temples and other religious spaces are in that category.

It's all about environment. 

August 1, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


You're Probably Going to Get a Big Raise in 2023 (Adam Hardy, Jul 18, 2022, Money)

Thanks to a tight labor market, salary budgets for workers are expected to grow 4.1% on average, according to the latest annual salary report from consulting firm Willis Towers Watson. Next year's planned pay increases would be the highest on record since 2008.

Almost two-thirds of employers plan to award raises in 2023 that are larger than last year, Willis Towers Watson found in a survey of more than 1,400 U.S. companies conducted in April and May.

Most employers reported that the pay increases are in direct response to the labor market, which has seen a turbulent couple of years. Early in the pandemic, layoffs were rampant, shooting the unemployment rate to a peak of 14.7% in April 2020.

Now, jobs are plentiful, and nearly all employers in the survey said they've been experiencing trouble hiring and retaining workers throughout the year. Federal data bears this out: For most of 2022, the unemployment rate has been below 4%, with job openings outnumbering available workers nearly 2 to 1.

Inflation is a function of wage increases.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Don't Call them Conservatives (Alan J. Singer, 8/01/22, HNN)

[W]hat became clear during the hearing and in recent American politics is not only that Donald Trump incited a riot and was involved in a criminal conspiracy to overthrow a democratically elected government, but that the MAGA Republicans in the House and the Senate and a Republican majority on the United States Supreme Court are not "conservatives" in a meaningful sense of the word. They are illiberal rightwing reactionaries who are willing to circumvent democracy to maintain power. Many are political extremists, religious zealots, intolerant bigots, and racists who appeal to the basest instincts of their followers. Their ideas and actions come very close to those of the Fascist movements that swept through Italy and Germany between World War I and World War II and have come to power in Hungary, Turkey and Russia today.

Whatever you call Trump's followers, don't call them "conservatives" or "traditionalists." There is nothing conservative or traditional about them. Those labels just provide a veneer of legitimacy to people who deserve no intellectual or political legitimacy at all.

As Steve Bannon said, they're just racists: "Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why do so many conservatives still support the awful Viktor Orban? (Kai Weiss, Aug. 1st, 2022, CapX)

It's worth delving into just what Orban said in his recent 'mixed race' speech. It is little short of a xenophobic diatribe, in which he refers to migration as 'population replacement or inundation'. According to Orban, countries which allow immigration from other races - and he does say 'race' repeatedly - are committing suicide, especially if those races mix.

There was also a healthy dose of his usual conspiracy theorising, of which nonagenarian financier George Soros is always a favourite target. 'Soros-affiliated troops,' Orban avers, want to 'force migrants' on Hungary. We also got a clue as to where Orban draws some of his whackier ideas, when he advised supporters to read The Camp of the Saints. For the uninitiated, this is a supposedly prophetic 1973 book about how mass migration from the Third World will eventually destroy the West with 'an attack on personality; Christianity...and white skin'.